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European Space Agency takes on 3D printing for space metals

Additive manufacturing is the path to Mars
Fri Oct 18 2013, 14:24

THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA) and European Commission (EC) are working together on making 3D printing a good way of building metal parts for rockets and spaceships.

The ESA has released a statement about this, saying that although 3D printing is not there yet, it is closing in on being something that it could use.

"We want to build the best quality metal products ever made," said David Jarvis, ESA head of New Materials and Energy Research, at an event held at the London Science Museum.

"We are focusing on serious engineering components made of very high-tech alloys. We are using lasers, electron beams and even plasma to melt them."

The plans come under The AMAZE project banner. AMAZE, or Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products is backed by some 28 different groups.

The plan is to put a 3D printer on the International Space Station (ISS) and use it to build parts or tools, and maybe egg cups, when the need arises.

Tools and parts are one thing, but part of the overall plan is building ships at the ISS that could be launched in the direction of the Moon or Mars. This apparently would save some of the expense of having to build ships for Earth based launch.

Closer to home the same technologies could be used to print out aircraft wings and jet engines. Working away at it are experts in four pilot factories in Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK.

3D printing is "a revolutionary process that is crying out to be standardised for industry", said Jarvis. "We want to bring it from the margins to the mainstream," he added.

"The future is going to be amazing." µ


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