3D printing is finding itself useful in untold applications, and the final frontier is no exception. From bringing along a 3D printer into space so future astronauts can make the parts they need, when they need them, to making pre-flight parts here on Earth, 3D printing brings value to NASA and commercial space exploration outfits. Deep Space Industries is planning on printing parts from asteroid ore, NASA wants to print things from moon dust on the moon, NASA’s SpiderFab would print entire spacecraft in space, and back on Earth NASA is printing spacecraft parts so they are lighter. Space exploration and 3D printing are a perfect fit.
NASA has been paying attention to the Maker community — so much so that they want to emulate it. In fact, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, they’ve created their own version of a Makerspace, somewhat similar to a TechShop. They call it the SpaceShop.
CNET stopped by Ames to take a look. From the video interview, here’s Ames’ director of engineering David Korsmeyer on the subject, “Spaceshop is our attempt to take the best practices and lessons learned from what we call the Maker community. We’re trying to take that spirit of entrepreneurship and bring it into NASA.”
Of ShapeShop, he says, “Engineers are able to design and then print out various 3D components. There’s a laser cutter for sheet metal and wood that allows us to rapidly cut very complex geometric shapes, we’ve got the traditional drill presses and bandsaws and all the other things you’d expect in kind of a high school class machine shop.” And of course there are 3D printers.
In the video they show what looks to be a UP Plus 3D printer if I’m not mistaken. I suspect that they’ve also got some printers there that are an itsy bitsy more powerful than that there.