One of the items on display at CES last week was imported further than all the others: a 3D printed model made from material found in an iron-nickel-cobalt meteorite.
Planetary Resources, which wants to get in on the ground floor of asteroid mining, printed a small model of a part of a spacecraft, basing its design on Planetary Resources’ experimental Arkyd spacecraft. They used the ProX DMP 320 direct metal printer from 3D Systems.
The meteorite was found in the Campo Del Cielo impact site in Argentina.
As their name would suggest, Planetary Resources is working on being able to supply humanity with metals that are rare on Earth, as well as offering space travelers nearby resources so that structures can be built without having to launch them from a planet. With 3D printing, those metals could be turned into the technology and structures needed for further exploration.
The meteorite material couldn’t just be turned into filament: it needs to be extracted, using a plasma that dissolves the material into something Planetary Resources CEO Chris Lewicki described as precipitation. The resulting “ink” can be formed into titanium pellets that can be used in the commercially available printer.
If this is going to work in space, though, it will need to be modified to work in a zero-gravity environment. Building in space would require a complete shift in the requirements for a manufactured item, since the item itself might never have to stand up to gravity.
Planetary Resources currently has one satellite in space as part of their efforts and has plans for two more in 2016.
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping