NASA Climbing All Aboard the 3D Manufacturing Train

NASA Climbing All Aboard the 3D Manufacturing Train

Back in September in our 4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About 3D Printing post, we mentioned something interesting: NASA’s plans to put a 3D printer in space aboard the ISS.

And with an update straight from the source, we now know that NASA is all aboard the 3D manufacturing train. Although we’ve obviously known for some time that NASA had plans to put a 3D printer in space, this update directly from NASA provides some much-needed information about NASA’s plans for additive manufacturing.

Here are a few important takeaways from NASA’s recent press release:

  • NASA knows that they’re not driving the 3D printing train. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fully prepared to take advantage of the revolutionary technology. In their own words, “NASA has the ability to get on-board [with 3D printing] to leverage it for our unique needs.”
  • NASA isn’t alone in this effort. Along with the U.S. Air Force, DOE, NIST and NSF, NASA is investing in America Makes, formerly known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Insti­tute.
  • NASA’s plans for 3D printing are diversified across a variety of uses. They’ll be printing in space, sure–but NASA’s plans span a wide variety of uses. From creating parts needed in space (like the 3D printed battery mounting plate shown in the image above), to using soil “on extrater­restrial bodies as feedstock for building 3D habitats and other structures,” NASA’s plans for 3D printing are far-reaching.

There’s no doubt that 3D printing is an incredible force in the world of manufacturing–something that NASA is clearly taking advantage of–but the involvement of big organizations like the USAF and NASA in additive manufacturing may be exactly what it takes to propel 3D printing from a world of uncertain uses to a world of practicality in real manufacturing.

As far as the future of the technology is concerned, we see this as a great thing. NASA may claim that they’re not steering the 3D printing train, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not helping it along. If you have any doubts about the future of manufacturing and manufacturing technology, big organizations like NASA getting involved should show you exactly how serious the industry is about the evolution of tech.

Photo credit: NASA