Our old Makerbot case sitting in the scrap parts bin has been resurrected as a grow case for my terrariums! All it took was an afternoon, some scrap plastic sheets, a few LED strips + power supply, and liberal use of a hot glue gun.
Humanity reached a big milestone this year. For millions of years, every tool that homo sapiens has ever made has had one thing in common: it was made on Earth.
But this year we successfully launched a 3D printer into space, marking the first time in human history that we can make an object off the surface of the earth. The group that has made this possible (besides NASA) is Made in Space, a company founded to prove that off-world additive manufacturing is both possible and the next step in space colonization. I talked with Made in Space co-founder Mike Chen about the future of making in space.
Getting to space is getting easier each year, but even with the new SpaceX Dragon missions, the cost of putting a kilogram of mass on the International Space Station is still about US$22,000. That makes it unreachable for most of us. In 2010 Made in Space saw a chance to disrupt this rocket-powered supply chain and enable manufacturing in space using newly available consumer 3D printer technology. They ran countless tests of existing consumer 3D printers onboard a reduced gravity aircraft (aka the Vomit Comet) to find a suitable design. Mike explained the problem, “We actually get a few emails a week [where] someone takes a printer and turns it upside down or sideways and says, ‘See? This prints upside down, so why wouldn’t this printer work in space?’ You know, you’re just not really thinking it through. Gravity is still there, acting as a force to hold things in place.” Remove that force and everything starts to oscillate. Also, heating elements in microgravity are difficult because there is no natural convection to circulate hot air, making passive cooling nearly impossible. The machine also needs to withstand the violence of launch, which may be the biggest build challenge. The Made in Space team decided that they needed a design of their own.
Mike says that’s one of the reasons the space stations exists, to experiment with how different systems act in micro-gravity. This is very much an experiment and is being treated as such. On November 17th, the printer was installed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), a facility on the ISS dedicated to possibly harmful experiments, and a perfect place to safely test new technologies. Now that the machine is ready, the first extraterrestrial manufacturing will commence soon.
I pressed Mike for some details on the machine itself. It’s a Material Extrusion machine like most consumer 3D printers on the market. That means it’s full of steppers; everyone loves steppers. In order to limit their unknown variables, they decided to use ABS plastic as their material. It’s one of the most well known polymers and is a very useful material. ABS does have toxic offgassing, so in addition to being housed in the MSG, there are environmental filters to protect the astronauts’ precious atmosphere. A 3D printing professional will also appreciate these simple design guidelines presented by Future Engineers who host a challenge to inspire schoolkids to design an object to be printed in space. Those guidelines also call out the build volume of 5cm x 10cm x 5cm and specific design hazards posed to an astronaut. Printed parts must not have any support structures or require post processing, which could release small particles in the air that can get in everything, including the astronauts. The standard 45° overhang is present as well. Maybe the next machine will be a 5 axis robot that can follow clever 3D toolpaths and truly print any geometry.
This machine has been designed with multiple design constraints to contend with. These constraints really drove Made in Space to develop their own machine and IP. On the ISS, an hour of an astronaut’s precious time will cost about $50,000. That means no fiddling with extruder tensions or babysitting the machine as it prints. So the printer only has one button, the ON button. Everything else is handled from ground control thanks to the MSG’s video cameras.
The big question is, what will they print first? Made in Space is being very secretive about this, but we won’t have to wait long to find out. The first print will be a special milestone, but subsequent prints will be test coupons that can be compared to prints made in an identical machine on terra firma. After proving the printer’s quality, there is a long list of useful objects that are needed on the ISS. There are hundreds of replacement parts already in storage on the station, but in the future those parts will be made on demand. At that point each kilo of printer material becomes a lot more valuable and versatile. There is even new opportunities to improve the lives of the astronauts by allowing family members to send digital gifts into orbit. In 2009 Randy Bresnik’s daughter was born while he was on an ISS mission. Imagine in addition to a photograph, Randy holding a 3D print of the newest Bresnik while passing out bubblegum cigars to his fellow astronauts.
You too can design something to be produced in space. Mike was keen on energizing the thousands of brand new 3D designers in the world to help solve problems in space. This machine gives an amazing amount of access to the 3D printing community on Earth. Made in Space is very receptive to ideas about what should be manufactured in space. Reach out and find a novel solution to a unique problem and there may even be a commercial benefit in it for you. See what Made in Space is doing on their website and follow Mike Chen on twitter: @MikeChen. These are exciting days.
We have an open call for Summer 2014 Fellowships at Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute (AMRI), hosted at Rice University in the department of Bioengineering.
We are soliciting applications for the following projects:
Project 1: e-NABLE 3D Printed Prosthetic Devices
In collaboration with the worldwide e-NABLE group, and Gloria Gogola, M.D. at Shriners Hospital for Children, Fellows will aid in the design, 3D printing, testing, and refinement of open-source prosthetic hand and finger designs. This unique fellowship will bring 3D printing into the clinical setting, working closely with Dr. Gogola and her patients in need.
Project 2: Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Fellows will augment and refine the open SLS design pioneered by Andreas Bastian last year. SLS machines typically cost $50k or more, we built ours for under $15k. This year we will focus on powder manufacturing and powder handling, as well as characterization of SLS parts via scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mechanical testing.
Project 3: OLED 3D Photolithography of Living Tissues
Related to Anderson Ta’s exciting digital light projection (DLP) photolithography last year, Fellows will investigate and program organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens as a light source for 3D photolithographic printing of living tissues. Chemical functionalization of glass surfaces will also be investigated to passivate the screen surface and aid in detachment and 3D printing from the light source surface.
Project 4: Open Source Ink Jet Printing of Bacteria
A continuation of Steve Kelly’s inkshield augmentation of RepRap motherboards to print living bacteria, Fellows will investigate fluid mechanics, python scripting, and multicolor printing to create interacting bacterial colonies on top of and within agar gels. Fellows will also learn how to insert genes of interest into bacterial colonies for protein production. Steve’s 2013 AMRI Presentation is available here.
Check out all the details, and be sure to apply by May 15th:
Questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1:00 – 5:00 PM $10/ at door
Leave a comment below for RSVP
Got a sweetheart? Want to meet a sweetheart? David and Leslie are back to share the Valentine’s love. Make sweet gifts and learn about 3D printing and paper circuits at the same time. For the gamer in your life, there’s a Valentine Creeper. Got an inspirational do-gooder? Here’s a movie inspired MockingJay pin. Just want to show you care? Well, they’re working on a pixel heart necklace/keychain, that is sure to please.
While your piece prints, make a Valentine card that will illuminate your sweetheart’s soul. Bring some materials from around your house and combine them with a variety of papers, copper tape, LED and battery to create the perfect paper circuit. If you love crafting and electronics, you are about to experience maker heaven. If you’ve never been here before, you can tour the space and find out more about other member’s projects. Munchies will be on hand. Don’t forget to comment below so we know you are coming!
Hot on the heels of their wildly successful Build My Lab contest (still 5 days left to enter!!), our friends at Tekla Labs are putting together another breakthrough event to unite DIYers and the science community (NOTE: These events are happening in Berkeley, CA).
Julea Vlassakis writes:
The Point of Care Diagnostics IdeaLab, Tekla Labs, and the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases is excited to announce a series of coordinated events to promote global health design and innovation.
January 9, 2014 Diagnostics by Design: A Workshop on the design, development, and implementation of Global Health Technologies (details/registration here)
January 10, 2014 The 6th Annual CEND Symposium. Academia and the Global Health Pipeline: Basic Science Innovation and Translation (register here)
January 11-12, 2014 Diagnostics by Design: A Hack Day for Global Health (register here)
The Diagnostics by Design workshop is an interdisciplinary forum for discussing the challenges and lessons learned in developing and implementing global health technologies, specifically at the point of care. Through interactive talks, a panel discussion with experts from industry and academia, and a hands-on build session, we will explore the challenges associated with translating technologies beyond the lab. This workshop will draw on the expertise and experience of individuals from across disciplines to explore collaborative solutions to global health issues. The workshop will feature Columbia Professor and mChip inventor Samuel Sia as the keynote speaker. See our eventbrite page for a full list of speakers and panelists and for registration.
The Diagnostics by Design hackathon is an interdisciplinary effort to bridge the gap between makers and do-it-yourself innovators and the sphere of global health. The event is posed as a challenge to participants: with minimal materials or through innovative coding, tackle a technological or informatic need in the space of point-of-care diagnostics. These can range from generating DIY lab equipment alternatives for medical clinics with limited resources, informatics for disease monitoring, or redesign of diagnostic tools for resource-limited settings. Attendees will be given a kit with some materials and have access to 3D printers, laser cutters, mills and more. Visit our eventbrite page for more details and to register.
Science Channel did a pretty cool piece on our research using sugar glass for making vascularized engineered tissues last year at Penn (thanks Randy for the sighting). Enjoy.
Three more things in my house require a remote control now, and one of them is the streetlight in front of my house. Ever since I heard about a hacked streetlight at the Guerrilla Drive in for Back to the Future in 2009, I have been turning off the streetlight on Darien Street by carefully aiming a laser dot at the light sensor on top of the streetlight. The light sensors on most streetlights face west to catch the last photons from the fading sunset before illuminating for the night—and this one faces right into the third floor of my house. It is very important to me to be able to choose to sit in the cozy dark, save my city some money, and not contribute to light pollution for a minute.
Just recently I revamped the process with a new, permanent laser and remote control system. Here it is in action:
I’ll show you how …
Our friend John Abella (of the Maker Faire 3D Printer Village and Delaware Makerspace Barrel of Makers) is running a two-day RepRap build workshop in Wilmington Delaware, October 5th and 6th. Attendees will be building Prusa i3 printers with all top-shelf parts: milled frames from Josef Prusa, genuine J-head hotends from Hotends.com, stainless threaded rods and hardened chromed smooth rods.
The workshop is being held at the Wilmington DoubleTree Hotel, and will have catered food for attendees. Every person attending will leave with tools and basic supplies to maintain their printer and get started printing. The workshop fee – all inclusive – is $999.
More info and class registration can be found here: http://botbuilder.net/classes/
This Thursday, please join us at a FREE exhibition of the work of Cornelius Varley (1800-1860) put on by the venerable American Philosophical Society. It is a fantastic exploration of the life work of this fellow tinkerer and inventor who’s insight and explorations reminds me a lot of our Hive76 members!
A few of us will also be presenting at this event! We will have live 3D sugar glass printing, exhibitions of Brendan’s boom cases, Dan’s 8 mm RockBox, PJ’s electronics, Corrie’s textiles and artwork, Chris Terrell’s wood burning, and maybe a few more things.
We hope to see you there! Deets and directions below.
Free Refreshments (wine, food, music) will be provided at the event!!
APS Requests your RSVP HERE: email@example.com
Thursday, June 6th, 2013
APS Museum in Philosophical Hall
104 S. Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA