ImJasonDunn2 karma2014-09-18 20:43:32 UTC
We definitely plan to have the printer be used commercially. Right now we have several groups working with us to have their items printed in space. Sure, NASA is paying to use the printer, but it is a real tool doing useful work. It can be used to support space station utilization.
More exciting, though, is how anyone else can use it. Imagine designing an experiment to be 3D printed. Now your experiment on the station can go through a rapid iteration cycle, not dependent on waiting for new parts to be launched. Science goals can be reached faster.
We even have people looking at building CubeSats on the ISS and then launching them. This could change the way spacecraft are built.
The layman on Earth might find things to print to bring back to Earth. New types of materials and structures can be manufactured in micro-gravity that could never be built on the ground.
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ImJasonDunn2 karma2014-09-18 21:01:26 UTC
Our founding value is that humans should live off planet Earth in a sustainable and independent way. The obvious end goal for space manufacturing is one that enables humans to be independent from Earth. Key to that would be the idea of "living off the land." So, yes, using resources from space is important. Our printer is actually capable of printing with some of these resources.
NASA ARM is a great project, but what we really need is a set of versatile systems that can be used for an asteroid, Moon, or Mars mission.
ImJasonDunn2 karma2014-09-18 20:01:25 UTC
We actually began this work with NASA's Flight Opportunity Program in 2011, where we did microgravity flights to learn how to make a printer work in zero-g. Much of what we learned has become our "secret sauce," so we don't discuss the specifics too much.
ImJasonDunn1 karma2014-09-18 20:15:26 UTC
Our 3D printers make space explorers less dependent on Earth. This is really great for astronauts in LEO, but will be absolutely necessary for a Mars mission. We feel like anywhere humans go in space they should bring a Made In Space printer along.
For us, the future is all about making humans be able to go off and live in space. To be truly Earth independent.
ImJasonDunn1 karma2014-09-18 20:56:29 UTC
Building a 3D printer for space isn't just about making it work in zero-g, it also has to be safe enough for NASA to allow to fly on ISS. That said, we developed new technologies that deal with controlling the print environment. In the end, the printer is extremely safe, and may even have useful aspects for making terrestrial printers safer.
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