It has been possible for years now to do 3D design, 3D prototyping, and more recently 3D manufacture or 3D printing of more and more complex objects. Increasingly this kind of work can be done using small machines, even desktop machines.
This past summer I heard about a project to extend the concept of 3D manufacture to space. It seems like a great idea, if we are eventually going to become space faring. The concept is simple. Rather than manufacturing everything needed on earth and launching it at great expense into space, instead put 3D manufacturing machines into space, and provide a stock of raw materials, either from earth or acquired in space from asteroids, Mars, wherever. Then, when a need for a new or replacement device arises, manufacture it on the spot.
One company with this dream is Made in Space. They are pioneering “additive manufacturing,” which means simply the process of building a product layer by layer. Materials can include plastics, titanium, aluminum. When Made in Space conducted their tests over the summer, they manufactured items like a scaled-down wrench, that became the first ever tool manufactured in limited gravity (they were flying on the NASA parabolic flights that simulate zero-gravity.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video producer and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.