Thursday, October 19, 2017
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3D Printing Test In Zero Gravity

018-1Contributing editor Dan Ward and his Indiana Ivy Tech associates recently conducted an interesting experiment courtesy of NASA. They bolted an Ivy Tech 3D printer (plastic extrusion type) inside a NASA C- 9B aircraft used for zero-G experiments. During free fall as they flew the downward portion of a parabolic arc, they turned on the printer to see how this CNC robotic machine would perform in weightlessness. The result? The plastic material built up much as it would on terra firma with no discernible difference in the way it was formed into an object. The plastic’s natural adhesive qualities and the extrusion process worked well, showing great promise, in this initial test, for use of 3D printers on the International Space Station and in other venues in outer space.

The printer performed well; operating it in Zero-G was the challenge! Left to right: Jorge Frias (University of Texas El Paso), Levi Hepp and Daniel Ward II (both with Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo).
The printer performed well; operating it in Zero-G was the challenge! Left to right: Jorge Frias (University of Texas El Paso), Levi Hepp and Daniel Ward II (both with Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo).
The 3D printer, mounted in a protective case, is shown bolted to the aircraft.
The 3D printer, mounted in a protective case, is shown bolted to the aircraft.

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