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Mike Snyder, Sunday, 10-19-14 October 20, 2014

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Mike Snyder, Sunday, 10-19-14


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Guest: Mike Snyder.  Topics:  3D printing in space and on the Made In Space 3D printer on the ISS.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Mike Snyder, Director of R&D for Made In Space, to the show to discuss 3D printing in space and their printer now on the ISS.  For more information, visit the Made In Space website, http://www.madeinspace.us.  Please note that at times the cell phone audio with our guest was less than clear.  I apologize for these issues but cell phones are often a problem with broadcast equipment, even on mainstream AM talk radio programs.  During the first segment of our 1 hour 28 minute program, Mike introduced us to the company Made In Space, 3D printing and additive manufacturing.  He talked about the testing they did with their printer before it was actually launched to the ISS, said the main unit weighed about 12 kilos and consumed 300 watts of power.  ABS plastic comprised the raw material for the printer.  He also described the type of objects that this printer would be printing on station.  Listener Ben asked Mike for mass comparisons with the 3D raw materials as compared to having spare parts on board the ISS.  Mike said in the future they would be recycling printer parts as new feedstock so to speak and that would make printing in space much more economic.  Listeners asked him to describe the design and printing process for the ISS printer, who was designated to work it on board and where was the printer located on the ISS.  Listener Beth emailed in a question asking our guest to explain additive manufacturing.  Doug sent in a set of questions ranging from “if 3D printers could print body parts, could it be used to produce an endless supply of clones to take over this part of the galaxy?  to “if 3D printers could take planetary material and reproduce their own parts, might they get out of control and convert the solar system into 3D printers?  This would either result in the extinction of humanity or be the basis of a really cool movie…not sure which.”  Our guest said that 3D printers were not being made with the “self-awareness chip.”  Other listener questions wanted to know about printing fuel, surgical tools as well as body replacement parts and even if someday space tourists might have their own personal printers to make souvenirs on their flights.

In the second segment, Marshall called to talk about bandwidth issues, storing data for the printer onboard or beaming it to the printer using up precious bandwidth.  Mike spoke more about the recycler planned for the future, then he was asked if a 3D printer in space could be hacked and taken over by others.  He talked about the control process and oversight by NASA & others to secure control of the printer.  Randy asked how their printer got to space.  It went up on the recent Dragon flight.  Near the end of the program, I asked Mike for the biggest challenges and limitations facing 3D printing in space.  His response surprised me.  See what you think when you hear what Mike thought the biggest challenge would be going forward with 3D printing in space.  Doug called before the end of the show to talk about mass & additive manufacturing, plus future metal printing in space.  As we neared the end of the program, Mike talked about how 3D printing could open the door for BLEO space travel by solving much of the spare parts issue.  He left us with important closing comments.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above. You can reach Mike through the Made In Space website or me.



1. Andy Hill - October 24, 2014

You could print a new heat shield with a carbon based feed stock (maybe in interlocking tiles) if the one on your spacecraft got damaged.

Also component size might not be to much of an issue as you could create things in sections that could be fitted together.

Not sure whether its feasible but it might be possible to continuously print one end of a component while extruding the other end from the printer to creat very long items such as support struts for spacecraft construction.

Not sure whether metal and plastic based feed stocks could be printed together at the same time to produce something like a printed circuit board or components with embedded cables and connectors.

Wouldn’t using moon regolith cause a lot of wear on the printer due to its sharp edges?

Really interesting to recycle plastics that would normally be dumped in the rubbish into a feed stock for a printer, what sort of grain size would it have to be ground down to too be used.

2. Rick Kwan - October 23, 2014

A small nit for David… the raw material for the printer is “ABS plastic” (not “ABC”). Looking it up, I now know why I never hear anyone pronounce the full name. :-/ It is *the* *hot* material of “makers”, and really integrated into our everyday lives. We basically cannot conduct our comfortable modern lives without it.

And on a side note… I was surprised find that my dentist is starting to work with 3D printing. You can imagine 3D printed dental appliances (e.g., false teeth 🙂 ) which are customized to your mouth. I believe Doug P asked or commented on producing bone structure with a 3D printer. I imagine dental work would be the first step in that direction.

3. Rick Kwan - October 23, 2014

On the Made In Space website, I saw a reference to http://www.futureengineers.org, went there, and discovered a STEM competition to design a space tool for fabrication on the ISS. Apparently, the competition is a month old, and entries are due Dec. 15. Going through the “DesignGuidelines.pdf” was very instructive about “do’s and don’ts” for designing to 3D print in space. I am not normally into “coolness” factors, but this is cool.

I wonder, however, about acceptance and access. How easy is it for students to find the CAD tools to create STL files? Is the free version of SketchUp adequate for this task? (http://www.sketchup.com) Normally, I would expect a bunch of design and stress analysis in SolidWorks, Creo/ProE, etc., which are really expensive for individuals.

Mike talked about the “socialization factor” of 3D printing. I’ve seen a little bit in STEM education, but don’t normally track that activity. I wonder how acceptance/adoption has been at STEM student ages? Is this the new cool hands-on activity instead of hotrods or home-brew computers or mobile app development?

4. Dieter Devlieghere - October 23, 2014

I had a question that is somewhat related to Joe’s question.

I was wondering how the zero-G 3D printer holds the object it is printing in a fixed location during printing? I would think there is some kind of airflow due to the heating in the printer which makes the weightless object want to move around.

Does the printer start printing on something sticky so that it stays in a fixed spot? If so, what kind of an effect does this have on the finished product?

5. Joe from Houston - October 21, 2014

One of the primary limitations of 3D printing is that gravity pulls down anything printed in thin air like a diving board for a swimming pool. For example, if you print the letter “T”, the horizontal bar of the “T” would droop as it is printed unless you build up a support structure that you later remove.

Is my guess correct in thinking that printing in a zero-gravity environment, you can easily print the horizontal part of the letter “T” without any support structure? You simply rotate the material extruder 90 degrees when printing horizontal structures.

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