NASA continues to experiment with 3D printing technology and its benefits in confined and hard-to-reach environments like space.
So when Commander Barry Wilmore needed a tool for his other experiments, he requested it from the ground agency, as usual.
But this time, instead of waiting several months for a refueling mission to allow him to access the tool, the NASA engineers worked on a 3D model and simply sent the file to him by email.
The captain was thus able to print the model directly from the 3D printer present at the edge of the station since the arrival of the last three crew members a few weeks ago.
It was the company Made in Space, the manufacturer of the 3D printer for NASA, who designed the socket wrench model sent to the ISS. It is the 21st object printed in 3D in space.
All of these printed models should return to Earth during a future mission, in order to be compared with equivalent models printed from an identical printer, but on Earth. NASA should thus study the differences and the influence of microgravity on the structure of the printed elements, their solidity, their fidelity compared to the models.
The idea is to continue to develop a more efficient printing technology which may, in the future, present itself as a veritable compact factory within vessels for long distance journeys, or even in the colonies which will be established on the Moon or on Mars.