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3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing
When you shoot a spaceship into space the rocket can only carry so much weight. Astronauts need careful planning to make sure they will have all the equipment they might need.
International Space Shuttle (ISS) commander Barry 'Butch' Wilmore needed a wrench. They did not have it with them and waiting for a resupply mission is kind of time consuming, not to mention expensive.
This is where the awesomeness of 3D printing comes in. You can just email someone a physical object.
Fortunately, the ISS had a 3D printer on board, design specifically for zero gravity environment by the company, Made in Space. And they printed the wrench.
3D printing has another benefit, it can create geometries that would be hard or impossible to make with traditional manufacturing that is usually subtractive - it removes material. 3D printing is additive manufacturing. It builds up objects layer by layer.n
cloud of points and wire frame
slices of layers
While usual consumer 3D printers just work with cheap PLAplastic... this technology has matured to suite industrial production.
The choice of materials is broad:
different plastics, resins, metals - aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, ceramics, wood, carbon fiber, paper, wax
You can have it be flexible or conductive, full color, medical grade or jewelry.
Imagine of you only looked at color pictures in book and magazines or online... but would not have your own camera or would not be able to paint (and then scan it).
Imagine if you could only print documents others have written.
With 3D printing it's similar. There are sites where you can download 3D models from... but it's way cooler if you can create your own.
Elon Musk showing how they design rocket engines - using VR and 3D Printing