It’s no secret aerospace manufacturers are extremely interested in the possibilities additive manufacturing (AM), otherwise known as 3D printing, presents for their businesses. Many aerospace manufacturers have been investing heavily into this technology, as AM offers incredible ways for these manufacturers to cut down on the weight of non-critical components throughout an aircraft. But now, Boeing is bringing 3D printing to new heights, all the way past the clouds and into space.
Boeing’s new 3D printer patent is something that seems to have come directly from a science fiction movie. Instead of using a standard build plate, the platform will create a magnetic field that will hold the first ‘nugget’ (Boeing’s name for the beginning of the 3D printed mass) of 3D printed material in place, then multiple 3D printers that surround the levitating nugget will have the ability to build up material anywhere on the floating nugget. They designed this concept in hopes of bringing AM to space while also giving operators more flexibility when it comes to their prints. As of now, the standard AM process uses the bottom to top printing approach, starting at the build plate and applying layers of material to create the desired shape. This is the next step in 3D printing design and technology.
“There is a need for an AM method and apparatus that eliminates the need for a platform and/or support materials to stabilize the part during the fabrication process, and which removes limitations on the types of features that can be formed, allowing full body 3D printing of complex parts.” Boeing explains why this technology is needed.( http://bit.ly/1WLA1aV)
In the video below you can see how this advanced technology will actually work:
3D printing will be essential for future space exploration, and even space mining missions, because of the cost of taking machinery into space. Each pound costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to send in space. If a company plans to mine an asteroid, it would be incredibly more cost efficient to bring one of Boeing’s 3D printers into space and only have to worry about the material, instead of each individual tool or component.
As companies and humanity continue to find new ways in which 3D printing can benefit their everyday lives, this technology will continue to evolve. With each advancement comes a new wave of applications and possibilities. There is no word on when Boeing plans to develop or release this incredible 3D printer but we hope to see it in action soon.