Made in Space 3-D Printing Project Selected for Phase II SBIR Award

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Made in Space tests a 3D printer in microgravity. (Credit: Made in Space)

On Thursday, NASA announced the selection of 39 proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards. Parabolic Arc will be looking at several of the proposals being undertaken by companies we have been following. This post looks at Made in Space, a Silicon Valley company working on 3-D manufacturing in space.

Made in Space, Inc.
Moffett Field, CA

PROPOSAL TITLE: ISS Additive Manufacturing Facility for On-Demand Fabrication in Space
SUBTOPIC TITLE: ISS Utilization

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 6
End: 8

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT

Made in Space has completed a preliminary design review of the Additive Manufacturing Facility. During the first half of Phase 1, the design went through conceptual development, simulation testing, cost analysis, and comparison testing of which off-the-shelf parts can be used. The deliverables for Phase I include a written report detailing evidence of demonstrated technology (TRL 5) in the laboratory and will outline in detail the path taken toward hardware demonstration for Phase II (TRL 6). The preliminary design is ready to be manufactured as an engineering test unit in Phase II. A feasibility study was created to demonstrate what could be fabricated for the inside of the ISS (parts and spares) and for the outside (possible satellites). It is anticipated that many of the sample uses that the AMF will make possible on-orbit have not yet been envisioned.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The Additive Manufacturing Facility has potential NASA commercial applications in the areas of ISS Repairs, Upgrades and Life Extension, Payload Upgrades and Improvements, In-Space Hardware On-Demand, Emergency in-Space Solutions, Small Spacecraft Assembly, and In-Space Manufacturing Research for Exploration.

The AMF will have the ability to manufacture components on demand in order to fix or replace broken parts on the ISS. It will also have the ability to upgrade and maintain hardware on the ISS with manufactures parts produced by the AMF to extend the life of critical and non-critical components of the ISS. Upgrades to existing payloads and experiments, will allow the much needed capability of adjusting and improving experiments.

The AMF will be able to manufacture standard hardware on demand such as spare parts and tools as well as hardware solutions for when an emergency arises on the ISS. As part of a technology demonstration, small spacecraft structures and CubeSats will be able to be constructed for assembly and check-out. The AMF will make possible to research the effectiveness of additive manufacturing in space, and applying that to exploration research.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The Additive Manufacturing Facility has potential Non-NASA commercial applications in the areas of Payload Upgrades and Improvements, Experiment Repairs, Spacecraft Assembly, Terrestrial Applications, and Earth-Based Technology Spin-Offs.

The AMF will grant the ability to upgrade existing payloads and experiments, which allows the much needed capability of adjusting and improving experiments. As part of a technology demonstration, small spacecraft structures and CubeSats will be able to be constructed for assembly and check-out. Additionally, the AMF will provide the ability to manufacture hardware in-space and return that hardware to Earth for ground-based applications. Also, the AMF shall have several significant advancements over the current 3D printers and additive manufacturing machines. These technologies will be licensed by Made in Space to terrestrial 3D printing companies that the company has partnered with, such as 3D Systems and Stratasys.

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