Space station’s 3-D printer will churn out art

Image: Internet visualization is working with Made In Space to have a 3-D visualization of global Internet connections turned into a plastic sculpture, using the 3-D printer that’s being sent to the International Space Station. The sculpture should look something like this. (Credit: Majestic)

The first objects to be created in orbit using the upgraded 3-D printer that’s on its way to the International Space Station are likely to be strictly utilitarian, but there’s fun stuff to come.

The Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3-D printer designed for use in zero-G, was launched on Tuesday night along with more than 7,500 pounds’ worth of additional cargo aboard Orbital ATK’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo capsule. The bus-sized spacecraft, known as the S.S. Rick Husband, is due to rendezvous with the space station on Saturday.

This is actually the second 3-D printer to go into outer space. The first one was an experiment, built by a commercial venture called Made In Space.

This time around, Made In Space partnered with Lowe’s Innovation Labs to produce a more capable 3-D printer.  The main idea is to provide a way to fabricate plastic tools and spare parts by following computerized instructions that are sent up from the ground.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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