Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is an essential need for astronauts in space. He helps the team make on-demand structures, tools, and spare parts they need to keep the space station in good shape. This will allow for sustainable maintenance of the site while avoiding the launch of long-duration space missions from earth which can be costly. Despite these advantages, there are still some restrictions regarding 3D printers – limited print volume. What’s this Imperial Project tries to solve.
The Imperial 3D printer is the solution to the needs of European Space Agency who looked for ways to increase the capacity of 3D printers. Designed by a European industrial consortium led by OHB in Germany, alongside Azimut Space in Germany, BEEVERYCREATIVE in Portugal and the Athlone Institute of Technology in the Republic of Ireland, the Imperial 3D printer goes beyond the capacity of conventional 3D printers you see on the market. It can produce polymer parts of unlimited size on one dimension. This means it can print large parts larger than the printer itself, allowing astronauts to easily 3D print large parts vital to the autonomy and durability of future space missions. The high-performance polymer products it can print are also said to have robust mechanical properties to ensure they can perform their function effectively.
Moreover, the Imperial 3D printer is literally designed for additive manufacturing off the ground. In addition to being compatible with the Columbus module of the International Space Station, it is independent of gravity, which makes it possible to print materials in any position without problems. And now that it’s complete and ready to use, it’s ready to be tested in space aboard the international space station.