How Additive Manufacturing Technology Will Help Build a Future in Space

It cannot be refuted that we have seen a significant change in how humans interact with space. The formerly inaccessible distance has now become the next frontier for tourism, business, commerce, and even medicine. The need for more satellites, the rise in the number of space missions, the proposed Artemis base on the moon, and other initiatives are all posing new manufacturing issues.

Serious debate on visiting the moon once more as well as landing on Mars for the first time has been going on for a while. It is a matter of when, not if, we achieve both of those objectives. Technology is developing quickly, and additive manufacturing in particular is likely to be largely responsible for the future of human space travel.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

To manufacture solid objects, additive manufacturing (sometimes known as 3D printing) includes layering materials, such as metals, polymers, alloys, or composites. In contrast, traditional production typically involves the removal of raw materials. The aerospace and defence, automotive, medical sciences, and consumer products industries, to mention a few, can all benefit from this production strategy. And it’s quickly gaining popularity not just for creating prototypes but also final products.

Since its inception, additive manufacturing has advanced significantly. The European Space Agency aims to utilise it to build actual buildings on the moon, changing it from a technique for making small pieces to that.

How Additive Manufacturing Technology Will Help Build a Future in Space

If people were to truly live on the moon, groundbreaking research could be done, but for a very long time, it didn’t make sense. Without housing, how could we ever survive on the moon, and how could we possibly send the kinds of construction supplies required to build habitation into space?

With lunar-based additive manufacturing, we could easily travel to the moon with a 3D printer and use materials present on the surface to manufacture homes, labs, and more without having to bring building materials. It’s not as impossible as it sounds; the ESA and Foster + Partners have had remarkable success 3D printing structural components like bricks and beams using simulated lunar soil, and NASA has followed suit with its own related initiative.

As revolutionary as it all may sound, there have already been 3D printers in space. The first permanent 3D printer to run in low Earth orbit is the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) from Made in Space, which is housed on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Since its installation in 2016, the AMF has created more than 200 tools and components, including art, commercial goods, as well as medical supplies for astronauts working at the ISS.

Additive Manufacturing in Space – How Easy Is It to Do?

Much work was required to get the AMF up and running to the capacity it is today. 3D printing can be challenging under regular Earthly circumstances, trying to do so in the absence of gravity has offered new difficulties.

However, if those problems can be solved, space flight will be far more environmentally friendly since astronauts won’t need to carry spare parts or rely on resupply missions from Earth when anything breaks.

Today, many businesses, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, use additive manufacturing to produce rocket parts. Some, like Relativity Space, have even 3D printed complete rockets. The use of additive manufacturing to create rocket parts offers many benefits, including the ability to generate parts quicker and parts that are lighter, stronger, and cheaper than those made traditionally. Additionally, the technology considerably increases design freedom by enabling the creation of non-standard geometries.

Additive Manufacturing: How It Can Work For You

Additive manufacturing offers companies the possibility to achieve:

  • Limitless innovation
  • Leaner operations
  • Agility from design to production
  • Mass-scale customization
  • Enhanced sustainability

In order to ensure that your designs and parts are of the highest quality and you are able to successfully achieve the above, it is essential that you revolutionize and incorporate simulation into your additive manufacturing processes.

Without simulation, additive manufacturing is significantly more challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Our simulation tools can forecast build distortions, stresses, build failure, and build component microstructure, as well as simulating the effects of post-processing and heat treatment.

Benefits of using simulation and the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform:

  • Sourcing and standardization intelligence to find potential 3D printing candidates
  • 3DEXPERIENCE Marketplace for intelligent component sourcing and on-demand manufacturing
  • Engineering and development of materials
  • Design and production planning using a function-driven generative design process

Get in touch

Embrace additive manufacturing technology and get ahead of the competition today – get in touch to find out more about how you can leverage the capabilities of 3DX to achieve your goals.