2017-05-17_10h01_42

3D Printing in June 2017: An Update

As always, the world of 3D printing is full of surprises.  June of 2017 is no different.  Here’s the roundup of the most exciting and groundbreaking events and breakthroughs in this cutting-edge field.

Business Standard reports on a remarkable new invention developed by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from India.  Mr. Sharook, who hails from Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu, has created a 3D printed satellite, which is the world’s smallest.  It will launch into space with the help of NASA on June 21st.

The KalamSat satellite, named after nuclear scientist and former President APJ Abdul Kalam, “weighs only 64 grams.”  “Sharook’s project, the first to be manufactured via 3D printing, got selected through a competition, ‘Cubes in Space,’ sponsored jointly by NASA and ‘I Doodle Learning.’  The project aims to [measure] the performance of new technology in space.”  The KalamSat “was funded by an organization called ‘Space Kidz India.”

Sharook explained the KalamSat will be aboard “a sub-orbital flight and after launch the mission span would be 240 minutes.  The tiny satellite will operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment.”

As Sharook elaborates, “the main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of 3D printed carbon fiber.  We designed it completely from scratch.  It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation, and the magnetosphere of the earth.  The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown in space which would fit into a four-meter cube weighing 64 grams.”

Elsewhere, Science Magazine reports on yet another astounding breakthrough 3D printing is bringing to the medical industry.  Scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering collaborated to 3D print mouse ovaries.

According to these teams’ findings published in Nature Communications, these “prosthetic ovaries made of gelatin have allowed mice to conceive and give birth to healthy offspring.”  One day, the team at Northwestern hopes 3D printed ovaries such as these could “be used to help restore fertility in cancer survivors rendered sterile by radiation or chemotherapy.”

“The researchers used a 3D printer with a nozzle that fired gelatin, derived from the collagen that’s naturally found in animal ovaries.  The scientists built the ovaries by printing various patterns of overlapping gelatin filaments on glass slides – like building with Lincoln Logs, but on a miniature scale: each scaffold measured just 15 by 15 millimeters.  The team then carefully inserted mouse follicles – spherical structures containing a growing egg surrounded by hormone-producing cells – into these ‘scaffolds.’”

The team at Northwestern “then tested the more tightly woven scaffolds in live mice [by punching] out 2-millimter circles through the scaffolds and implanting 40-50 follicles into each one, creating a ‘bioprosthetic’ ovary.  [Subsequently, they] surgically removed the ovaries from seven mice and sutured the prosthetic ovaries in their place…the researchers allowed the mice to mate, and three of the females gave birth to healthy litters.”

The Northwestern researchers are hopeful these sorts of 3D printed bioprosthetic ovaries will be available for humans in the future.

The medical field also saw a different revelation.  The Verge has a fascinating new article out about a groundbreaking bioprinting process developed at the University of Florida.

A team at the University of Florida led by Thomas Angelini and Chris O’Bryan have discovered a way to 3D print delicate objects such as medical implants.  They published their findings in the journal Science Advances.  Their new process works by “suspending fragile 3D printed structures in a Jello-like goo while the liquid ink [of the object] hardens, [which keeps the object from] warping or sagging.”

The problem this team was attempting to overcome occurs when a doctor or other medical professional wishes “to 3D print a thin, hollow, or otherwise fragile object.  The 3D printer lays down layers of a material like silicone until enough build up to form a tube.  But there’s this lag time between when the printer first squirts out the liquid ink, and when that ink solidifies – which presents a [conundrum]: how do you keep your structure from collapsing or bending before it fully hardens?”

This is why Angelini, O’Bryan, and the rest of their team at the University of Florida developed this goo.  This material, which they dubbed organogel, supports the liquid ink as it hardens.  Organogel is made from “squishy, microscopic, chemical balls that are packed together in mineral oil.”

O’Bryan explains: “[it’s] like a ball pit in McDonald’s.  Just shrunk down to sizes that are one-hundredth the size of a human hair.”  “Under most conditions, the organogel acts like a gooey solid that envelopes the 3D printed structure and keeps it immobile.  But during the actual printing process, the 3D printer’s nozzle puts just enough pressure on the organogel that the goo turns into a fluid right at the tip – flowing around the nozzle as it squirts silicone ink in a 3D pattern.”

Using this organogel, the team at the University of Florida “3D printed an extremely thin-walled windpipe that took 24 hours to harden – time when it could have bent or collapsed without the organogel’s support.  They also printed out what they affectionately call the ‘sea anemone,’ a strange little Cthulhu creation that squirts water through its tentacles.”

This was done in order to ensure organogel 3D printed implants of the future would be strong enough to “pump liquid without bursting or leaking.”  The experiment was a success!

Of course, 3D printing isn’t only revolutionizing the medical industry – it’s also got its hands in the military industrial complex as well!

Since the U.S. military dropped the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, or ‘Mother of All Bombs’, as is its nickname, on ISIS militants in Afghanistan in April, engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory have been hard at work attempting to replace and update it.

According to 3Ders, these engineers are using 3D printing in order to develop such a replacement.  The engineers believe “3D printed casing for the weapon could produce a larger blast with less debris…the new 3D printed bomb would be lighter and smaller than its predecessor, but would still cause huge damage to its targets.”

Dr. John Corley, who is a retired Four-Star Air Force General and Core Technical Competency Lead for Ordnance Sciences at the dedicated Air Force Research Laboratory spoke at a recent weapons showcase: “we’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to ten years.  3D printing can be used to reduce the size of the bomb, particularly the thickness of its case walls.  The result of doing this could be significant: with slender 3D printed casing, the bomb could provide a larger blast with less debris.”

Indeed, these researchers have 3D printed prototypes of these new casings “in a repeating diamond pattern, while 3D printing has also been used to fabricate fuse prototypes.  Overall, 3D printing could provide many advantages for the Air Force as it develops its next generation of weapons.  In addition to providing the bombs with a larger blast radius, 3D printed aspects could also reduce the bombs to a more appropriate size – something that is especially important as military aircraft get smaller.”

“The Air Force is currently weighing up whether it should make these new bombs in house or have them made by contracted companies.  Either way, these 3D printed explosive devices are probably still a few years away from completion.”

Be sure to visit Replicator World again for more 3D printing updates!

Image Courtesy of The Verge

Quotes Courtesy of Business Standard, Science Magazine, The Verge, and 3Ders

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2017-05-17_10h01_42

Medical Implants 3D Printed with ‘Goo’

The Verge has a fascinating new article out about a groundbreaking bioprinting process developed at the University of Florida.

A team at the University of Florida led by Thomas Angelini and Chris O’Bryan have discovered a way to 3D print delicate objects such as medical implants.  They published their findings in the journal Science Advances.  Their new process works by “suspending fragile 3D printed structures in a Jello-like goo while the liquid ink [of the object] hardens, [which keeps the object from] warping or sagging.”

The problem this team was attempting to overcome occurs when a doctor or other medical professional wishes “to 3D print a thin, hollow, or otherwise fragile object.  The 3D printer lays down layers of a material like silicone until enough build up to form a tube.  But there’s this lag time between when the printer first squirts out the liquid ink, and when that ink solidifies – which presents a [conundrum]: how do you keep your structure from collapsing or bending before it fully hardens?”

This is why Angelini, O’Bryan, and the rest of their team at the University of Florida developed this goo.  This material, which they dubbed organogel, supports the liquid ink as it hardens.  Organogel is made from “squishy, microscopic, chemical balls that are packed together in mineral oil.”

O’Bryan explains: “[it’s] like a ball pit in McDonald’s.  Just shrunk down to sizes that are one-hundredth the size of a human hair.”  “Under most conditions, the organogel acts like a gooey solid that envelopes the 3D printed structure and keeps it immobile.  But during the actual printing process, the 3D printer’s nozzle puts just enough pressure on the organogel that the goo turns into a fluid right at the tip – flowing around the nozzle as it squirts silicone ink in a 3D pattern.”

Using this organogel, the team at the University of Florida “3D printed an extremely thin-walled windpipe that took 24 hours to harden – time when it could have bent or collapsed without the organogel’s support.  They also printed out what they affectionately call the ‘sea anemone,’ a strange little Cthulhu creation that squirts water through its tentacles.”

This was done in order to ensure organogel 3D printed implants of the future would be strong enough to “pump liquid without bursting or leaking.”  The experiment was a success!

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Verge

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Desktop Metal: Metal 3D Printing for Manufacturers

According to Forbes, there’s a new kid on the block – and it’s 3D printing in metal!  Desktop Metal, which is a startup based in Massachusetts, has just announced “the release of two new metal 3D printing systems aimed at engineering and manufacturing firms.”

“First, in September, the company’s studio system will hit the market – enabling engineers to create small parts and to make prototypes out of metal quickly.  Then in 2018, the company will release its full production system, which will enable manufacturers to quickly print metal parts.”

Desktop Metal CEO and Co-Founder Ric Fulop explains “part of the motivation for starting [the] company in 2015 was out of frustration…the current state of metal 3D printing [was] slow and expensive…it seemed like the only way to improve the performance of metal printers was to make them more expensive.  I felt like that was the wrong direction.”  Desktop Metal’s other Co-Founder, Ely Sachs, “literally coined the term ‘3D printing’ during the technology’s nascent years.”

Fulop and Sachs “highlighted a number of advantages they think [Desktop Metal] has over what’s currently at market.  For one, their process doesn’t involve any hazardous materials, nor does it require any laborious cutting processes.  That means that their systems can be housed without the need for more expensive facilities…another advantage…is that they use a wider variety of metals – and house them in easily swappable cartridges.”  Desktop Metal’s 3D printing process also took its inspiration from the world of plastic 3D printing with their “bound metal deposition” extrusion process.

Other advantages of Desktop Metal are speed of the 3D printing process and price.  “A full studio system, including printer and furnace, will cost $120,000.  The production system will cost $360,000, with furnaces available for $60,000 apiece.  That’s 10 times less than what’s on the market.”

“The company has raised nearly $100 million in venture funding to date, with contributions from BMW i Ventures, GE Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, 3D printing company Stratasys, and more.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Forbes

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Scientists Develop 3D Printed Mouse Ovaries

Science Magazine reports on yet another astounding breakthrough 3D printing is bringing to the medical industry.  Scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering collaborated to 3D print mouse ovaries.

According to these teams’ findings published in Nature Communications, these “prosthetic ovaries made of gelatin have allowed mice to conceive and give birth to healthy offspring.”  One day, the team at Northwestern hopes 3D printed ovaries such as these could “be used to help restore fertility in cancer survivors rendered sterile by radiation or chemotherapy.”

“The researchers used a 3D printer with a nozzle that fired gelatin, derived from the collagen that’s naturally found in animal ovaries.  The scientists built the ovaries by printing various patterns of overlapping gelatin filaments on glass slides – like building with Lincoln Logs, but on a miniature scale: each scaffold measured just 15 by 15 millimeters.  The team then carefully inserted mouse follicles – spherical structures containing a growing egg surrounded by hormone-producing cells – into these ‘scaffolds.’”

The team at Northwestern “then tested the more tightly woven scaffolds in live mice [by punching] out 2-millimter circles through the scaffolds and implanting 40-50 follicles into each one, creating a ‘bioprosthetic’ ovary.  [Subsequently, they] surgically removed the ovaries from seven mice and sutured the prosthetic ovaries in their place…the researchers allowed the mice to mate, and three of the females gave birth to healthy litters.”

The Northwestern researchers are hopeful these sorts of 3D printed bioprosthetic ovaries will be available for humans in the future.

Image Courtesy of Tech Crunch

Quotes Courtesy of Science Magazine

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Indian Teen 3D Prints NASA’s Smallest Satellite

Business Standard reports on a remarkable new invention developed by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from India.  Mr. Sharook, who hails from Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu, has created a 3D printed satellite, which is the world’s smallest.  It will launch into space with the help of NASA on June 21st.

The KalamSat satellite, named after nuclear scientist and former President APJ Abdul Kalam, “weighs only 64 grams.”  “Sharook’s project, the first to be manufactured via 3D printing, got selected through a competition, ‘Cubes in Space,’ sponsored jointly by NASA and ‘I Doodle Learning.’  The project aims to [measure] the performance of new technology in space.”  The KalamSat “was funded by an organization called ‘Space Kidz India.”

Sharook explained the KalamSat will be aboard “a sub-orbital flight and after launch the mission span would be 240 minutes.  The tiny satellite will operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment.”

As Sharook elaborates, “the main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of 3D printed carbon fiber.  We designed it completely from scratch.  It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation, and the magnetosphere of the earth.  The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown in space which would fit into a four-meter cube weighing 64 grams.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Business Standard          

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3D Printing Bionic Skin

At the University of Minnesota’s Characterization Facility and Polymer Characterization Facility, a new 3D printing material has been developed.  This project, funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health, is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

This project was helmed by University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Michael McAlpine, who had previously “integrated electronics and novel 3D printed nanomaterials to create a ‘bionic ear’” in 2013.

Now, McAlpine and his team “have developed a revolutionary process for 3D printing stretchable electronic sensory devices that could give robots the ability to feel their environment.  The discovery is also a major step forward in printing electronics on real human skin.”

As McAlpine explains, “this stretchable electronic fabric we developed has many uses.  Putting this type of ‘bionic skin’ on surgical robots would give surgeons the ability to actually feel during minimally invasive surgeries, which would make surgery easier instead of just using cameras like they do now.  These sensors could also make it easier for other robots to walk and interact with their environment.”

Eventually, this wearable technology could “be used for health monitoring or by soldiers in the field to detect dangerous chemicals or explosives.”  In order to create this material, the team developed a custom 3D printer.  This multifunctional device “has four nozzles to print the various specialized ‘inks’ that make up the layers of the device – a base layer of silicone, top and bottom electrodes made of a conducting ink, a coil-shaped pressure sensor, and a sacrificial layer that holds the top layer in place while it sets.  The supporting sacrificial layer is later washed away in the final manufacturing process.”

McAlpine went on: “while we haven’t printed on human skin yet, we were able to print on the curved surface of a model hand using our technique.  We also interfaced a printed device with the skin and were surprised that the device was so sensitive it could detect your pulse in real time.”

The next step for this University of Minnesota team is “to move toward semiconductor inks [in order to print] on a real body.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

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3D Printed ‘Eye Conformers’

The Huffington Post reports on “a group of eye specialists and eye-care providers from the Netherlands [who have] used 3D printing technology to create artificial eye structures, called conformers, in a small study of five children.”

These specialists operated out of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.  These 3D printed eye structures were created in order to “help” “children with conditions called microphthalmia and anophthalmia, in which they are born with underdeveloped or missing eyes, respectively.  These conditions, which can occur in one or both eyes, affect more than 10 percent of blind children worldwide and as many as 30 in 100,000 children.”

As the researchers explained, “although the sculpted eyes don’t enable the child to see, they do provide critical support of the eye-socket so the child’s face can have a ‘natural’ proportional look.”

“Children with these conditions may have ‘malformed’ eye sockets [so] the face and the areas around the eyes cannot expand to their ‘natural’ contour.  The advantage of 3D printed eye conformers is that they can be replaced often with slightly larger sizes by the parent at home as the child grows, or as frequently as weekly when the child is a few months old.”

Before this, children with these conditions would “be fitted with a device called an ocular prosthesis.”  Or a ‘glass eye’ – as they, at one time, were made from glass.  This can be a laborious device to fit, however.

“For infants with microphthalmia or anophthalmia, time is critical because their rapidly growing heads need the stimulation of a full-size eyeball for the frame of the eye socket to expand accordingly.  Without such stimulation, that section of the skull can cave inward.  3D printed conformers help address this challenge because they can be printed quickly, cheaply, and in a range of sizes varying by less than a millimeter in diameter.”

“The conformers don’t look like eyes.  In fact, the original batch of eyes were green, with no pupils colored in.  But they are convenient enough for parents to fit into their baby’s eye socket after they’re trained by oculists on how to do so.  Early evaluation has shown that socket volumes of the treated eyes doubled, on average, over the treatment time of about a year, thus indicating that significant socket expansion occurred.  The study on these children is ongoing.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Huffington Post

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3D Systems Embeds PTC’s ThingWorx into 3D Printers

3D Print reports on a new announcement from 3D printing giant 3D Systems.  3D Systems plans “to begin embedding PTC’s ThingWorx within their 3D printers.”

PTC began more than 30 years ago “and was the first company to market with Internet-based PLM in 1998.”  They have also had a long partnership with 3D Systems.  Now, PTC “delivers…connectivity through the ThingWorx platform, which enables direct sourcing of data from connected machines within factories or from third party businesses or engineering systems.”

3D Systems has chosen to expand their partnership with PTC in order to “shift away from prototyping and [focus more on] 3D printed production, maximizing printer availability and productivity.”

This new partnered “platform will allow customers to create real time dashboards to monitor their 3D printers.  [It will also] give 3D Systems visibility into the printers’ service requirements.  The company will be able to remotely diagnose issues and even remotely repair the machines in some cases.”

As 3D Systems’ Vice President of Software Carol Zampell explains, “we believe the capabilities enabled through ThingWorx technology can help us deliver the machine uptime required in production environments.  This will enable our customers to gain a distinct business advantage through improved resource utilization, business insight, and overall gains in productivity.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print

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Foto: DB AG/Oliver Lang

German Rail Company DB to Expand 3D Printed Parts

Global Rail News reports on a planned expansion into the 3D printed sphere by German rail company DB.  “From headrests to ventilation grilles, DB has already produced 1,000 spare parts using 3D printers.  By the end of this year that number will have increased to around 2,000” spare parts.

Though DB doesn’t even plan to stop there.  In fact, the company “has ambitions to expand its use of 3D printers further, with as many as 15,000 components expected to be produced using the technology by the end of 2018.”

DB first 3D printed spare parts back in 2015, when they utilized the technology in order to create a coat hook.  These days DB is 3D printing damper components and braille station signs.  “The first spare parts were made of plastic but metal items are now also being produced using a powder bed printing process.  Using this technology, DB has been able to fabricate terminal boxes for Germany’s high-speed ICE trains.”

As Chief Executive of DB Vehicle Maintenance Uwe Fresenborg explains: “for the maintenance of our vehicles we need immediately available spare parts.  Our trains are expected to roll.  3D printing helps us in doing so.  3D printing is faster, more flexible, and cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes, and the vehicles are available again in a very short time and are used for our customers.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Global Rail News

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Blackbelt 3D Printer: Printing Long Items to Infinity

Tech Crunch reports on a brand new and highly intriguing system of 3D printing.  The Blackbelt utilizes a “conveyor system for FDM printing [which allows you to] build huge objects.”

The Blackbelt will cost “about $10,430 for a desktop system or $13,720 for a larger system with standing supports.  It prints 13 inches by 13 inches by infinity, which means you can print long car side panels or even long signs.  It comes with three separate nozzles for different extruded plastic widths.”

With this new Blackbelt 3D printing conveyor tech, “as long as you start the print touching the belt you can easily print objects with overhangs and indentations.  Interestingly, the printer has a unique print angle that prints out plastic on the leading edge.  This means objects can be printed without supports because it doesn’t print from the bottom up like normal FDM systems but from the edge.”

This key difference allows you to “print infinitely long objects on the Blackbelt or print multiple smaller objects that fall off into a basket.”  This way, the Blackbelt 3D printing conveyor tech gives users a highly flexible system.  Obviously, the ability to print supremely long objects can come in handy but so can printing a large group of smaller items all at once as well.

The Blackbelt 3D printing conveyor system launched its Kickstarter back in May of 2017.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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New ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Could Be 3D Printed

Since the U.S. military dropped the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, or ‘Mother of All Bombs’, as is its nickname, on ISIS militants in Afghanistan in April, engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory have been hard at work attempting to replace and update it.

According to 3Ders, these engineers are using 3D printing in order to develop such a replacement.  The engineers believe “3D printed casing for the weapon could produce a larger blast with less debris…the new 3D printed bomb would be lighter and smaller than its predecessor, but would still cause huge damage to its targets.”

Dr. John Corley, who is a retired Four-Star Air Force General and Core Technical Competency Lead for Ordnance Sciences at the dedicated Air Force Research Laboratory spoke at a recent weapons showcase: “we’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to ten years.  3D printing can be used to reduce the size of the bomb, particularly the thickness of its case walls.  The result of doing this could be significant: with slender 3D printed casing, the bomb could provide a larger blast with less debris.”

Indeed, these researchers have 3D printed prototypes of these new casings “in a repeating diamond pattern, while 3D printing has also been used to fabricate fuse prototypes.  Overall, 3D printing could provide many advantages for the Air Force as it develops its next generation of weapons.  In addition to providing the bombs with a larger blast radius, 3D printed aspects could also reduce the bombs to a more appropriate size – something that is especially important as military aircraft get smaller.”

“The Air Force is currently weighing up whether it should make these new bombs in house or have them made by contracted companies.  Either way, these 3D printed explosive devices are probably still a few years away from completion.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3Ders

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NASA Awards Prizes in Phase 2 of its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge

According to a new article by Space, NASA has announced the winners for Phase 2: Level 1 Compression Test Competition in its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

The 3D Printed Habitat Challenge is a partnership between NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, which aims “to foster the development of technologies to manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials with, or without, recyclable materials.”

“When humanity eventually becomes an interplanetary species, settling on Mars and beyond, people will need to use the resources that are locally available as building material for habitats…it would be expensive and unsuitable to ship building materials all the way from Earth.”  This is where the wonders of 3D printing come in.  “By setting up competitions, NASA hopes to attract ‘citizen inventors’ from diverse backgrounds to develop 3D printing technologies for space exploration.”

The 3D Printed Habitat Challenge’s first Phase finished back in 2015.  “The Phase 2 ‘Structural Member Competition’ is now underway, with a total prize purse of $1.1 million; it focuses on material technologies that will be needed to build structural components.”  For Phase 2’s first level, NASA has just recently announced the winners.  They “are Foster + Partners | Branch Technology of Chattanooga, Tennessee (awarded $85,930), and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (awarded $14,070).”

“Phase 2 comprises three subcompetitions, the first of which was this ‘Compression Test Competition.’  For this competition, teams were asked to develop 3D printable materials and to 3D print a truncated cone and a cylinder.  Next, the teams will be tasked with 3D printing a beam that could be used in habitat construction as part of the ‘Phase 2: Level 2 Beam Member Competition.’”

As NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program Manager Monsi Roman concludes: “seeing tangible, 3D printed objects for this phase makes the goals of this challenge more conceivable than ever.  This is the first step toward building an entire habitat structure, and the potential to use this technology to aid human exploration to new worlds is thrilling.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of NASA and Space

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