Development of a 3D printer for the International Space Station able to print parts of high performance thermoplastics in high vacuum.
Long-term human presence in space will require on-orbit and on-planet manufacturing, but to have the maximum advantage of these technologies the capability to be self-sustainable becomes fundamental. The Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the safest, widespread and mature additive manufacturing technology on Earth as well as in space.
Understanding how the Fused Filament Fabrication process works in high vacuum with high-performance polymers, and whether it’s suitable for processing the filaments provided by a recycled system, is one of the critical steps in additive manufacturing technology implementation for future space missions.
The project presents a further technological step to demonstrate 3D printing of high thermoplastic polymers in high vacuum combined with the current state-of-the-art of recycling systems. The main steps were:
• Adapt the configuration and elements for high vacuum suitability and adapt the distribution and process to the tolerances and quality of recycled filaments.
• Manufacturing, Assembly and Test printer under high vacuum conditions.
• Compare mechanical and functional properties of samples printed in high vacuum and under ambient pressure with new and recycled filaments.
• Identify the mechanical quality of the samples printed with recycled filaments and define the number of recycling cycle versus the type of hardware to be produced.