3D Printing

AMAZE project aims to put first 3D metal printer on the ISS

AMAZE project aims to put firs...
The AMAZE logo printed in metal using an additive manufacturing 3D printing technique that could be making its way to the ISS in the not too distant future (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
The AMAZE logo printed in metal using an additive manufacturing 3D printing technique that could be making its way to the ISS in the not too distant future (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
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Sandwich structure aerofoil demonstrator made of Titanium using 3D-printing technology (Photo: Cranfield University)
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Sandwich structure aerofoil demonstrator made of Titanium using 3D-printing technology (Photo: Cranfield University)
Participant at a press conference at the London Science Museum observes a 3D printed metallic object (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
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Participant at a press conference at the London Science Museum observes a 3D printed metallic object (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
The AMAZE logo printed in metal using an additive manufacturing 3D printing technique that could be making its way to the ISS in the not too distant future (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
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The AMAZE logo printed in metal using an additive manufacturing 3D printing technique that could be making its way to the ISS in the not too distant future (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)

3D printers have already migrated from factories to the home and are now set to journey into space, where the cost of delivering replacement tools, components and structures can cost in the millions. The AMAZE (Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products) from the ESA and the European Commission aims to deliver the first 3D metal printer to the International Space Station (ISS) to allow astronauts to print custom objects on demand.

While the home 3D-printing revolution is largely limited to the creation of small plastic objects, the AMAZE project envisages using 3D printers to produce metallic components up to 2 m (6.5 ft) in size, thereby allowing the printing of entire satellites as a way to bypass the need to launch heavy payloads destined for the Moon and Mars from Earth and save time and money.

The ESA is evaluating the potential of five metal additive manufacturing processes with a focus on high-tech alloys, some of which only melt at 3,500° C (6,330° F). "We are using lasers, electron beams and even plasma to melt them," explains David Jarvis, ESA’s Head of New Materials and Energy Research.

The project's goal of near zero waste production also opens up the possibility of using exotic and expensive elements, such as tungsten, niobium or platinum to produce high-strength and lightweight components.

Participant at a press conference at the London Science Museum observes a 3D printed metallic object (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)
Participant at a press conference at the London Science Museum observes a 3D printed metallic object (Photo: ESA-N. Vicente)

Technology developed by the project is also expected to have numerous Earthbound applications in the areas of aeronautics, automotive, nuclear fusion and tooling. To this end, the AMAZE team, which is made up of 21 industry partners, eight academic partners and two intergovernmental agencies, aims to deliver a modular streamlined workflow at factory level that will offer the flexibility inherent in 3D printing technology, cut production times, and offer a 50 percent reduction in factory shop floor space compared to conventional factories.

The €19 million (US$26 million) project, which is the world's largest metallic 3D printing project, will involve the establishment of four pilot-scale additive manufacturing factories that are being set up in Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK, with each employing different 3D printing methods.

“We need high quality, we need it to be repeatable, and we need a supply chain. AMAZE connects all the key players within Europe and develops that supply chain,” says Jon Meyer, Additive Layer Manufacturing Research Team Leader at EADS Innovation Works.

Although the ESA may be the first to put a 3D printer capable of producing metal objects on the ISS, it is unlikely to be the first 3D printer there. Earlier this year, NASA and Made in Space Inc. announced plans to ship a 3D printer to the ISS on a US commercial resupply mission next year to demonstrate the potential of 3D printing technology in space. However, that printer is expected to handle polymer materials.

Source: ESA

13 comments
Threesixty
Printing in metal takes it to the next level...plastic is for decoration or maybe a model for lost wax/plastic casting.
Slowburn
@ Threesixty There are a lot of things made of plastic that are neither decorations or molds.
ezeflyer
Printing metals is an incredible future. Next is printing composites.
Jim Sadler
This is a wonderful technology. One side effect is that it is obvious that we will need a lot less employees in the manufacturing industry as a consequence. We are setting ourselves up for a disaster as social policy must advance as quickly as technology and no one is paying attention to evolving social policy and economics to assure that people do well as technology eliminates the need for human labor.
toolman65
doesn't 3 D printing require gravity to hold the medium in place while it hardens? how do they plan to deal with the toxic fumes from the manufacturing process?
Justfly25
I believe I saw an article on here describing a rail gun that could launch solids into space inexpensively. I didn't see much value in it at the time but if it could launch the printing material up to the 3-D printer then the possibilities are endless... You could print a huge space station at a fraction of the cost...
Bob Flint
Bypass the need to launch heavy payloads destined for the Moon and Mars from Earth and save time and money. How do you figure that? The printer will have mass, and unless you plan on mining the raw material, from an asteriod (no time or money saved there) the raw materials also have to go up into space. Maybe picking up some of the stray junk spinning around up there, grind it up?
frogola
i think Justfly25 had the ultimate concept.using high G's to put raw materials in to space then having the ability to manufacture. finally a real game changer.
dalroth5
@toolman65: It depends on the process. This one doesn't need gravity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkUVURLkxS4
The Skud
I hope they make a sealed box for it so metallic microdust does not float around the station!