Beam it up, Scotty: 3D Printing may have space applications

Tools and mechanical parts might be “beamed” up to a space station or a lunar or Mars base using technology that has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering). In this technology, an object is scanned and a powdery substance is converted via a heating process into a duplicate solid form. A striking demonstration of this technology can be seen in this 4-minute video clip from the National Geographic Channel.

A variation of the technology might also be used for lunar materials production by fabricating items from lunar regolith. Markus Kayser has demonstrated a prototype “Solar Sinter” device that uses the power of the sun to produce glass-like objects made from desert sand. You can view a 6-minute video demonstration of the device as tested in the Sahara Desert.

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