Made In Space has already installed two of its 3D printers at the International Space Station (ISS). The concept of 3D printing is making things more and more exciting for external space.the pace of growth is so fast that by next year the same company might find itself busy meeting demands of space fabrication technologies. The firm plans to on board a microgravity-optimized, extremely small fiber drawing system on ISS. This system will be used in production of ZBLAN optical fibers.
ZBLAN is currently being used in production of numerous medical products, near-infrared application, and fiber lasers in form of metal flouride glass. This substance has a high level infrared transmittance as compared to silica, however, gravity-induced flaws hinder its application on a large scale like long-distance communication. As per a research from NASA, it is might be possible to stay away from imperfections by manufacturing things in microgravity.
To accomplish this task, Made In Space has come up with a fiber drawing system that will be used in microgravity along with ZBLAN preforms. Called as “Made In Space Optical Fiber Production In Microgravity Experiment”, this one will be sent to the ISS within first three months of 2017. The machine onboard on the ISS is slated to manufacture ZBLAN optical fiber worth 328 ft. It will be the first of its’ kind to be manufactured in microgravity environment and will be sent back to earth for analysis and testing.
When it will come back to surface, it will be examined and might pave a path for establishment of microgravity production facilities in space stations. If this becomes a reality, Made In Space will manufacture ZBLAN micro fiber in space. But all this depends on the quality fiber that will be developed in space. It will play a key role in improvisation of data transmission abilities on earth. The CEO of Made In Space, Andrew Rush, explains further about it, “ZBLAN optical fiber was chosen as the initial material for experimental production because its value per kilogram is significantly higher than current launch costs, it has a strong existing terrestrial market and research indicates that microgravity manufactured ZBLAN can open large new markets as well as more effectively serve the current market.”
3D printing in space might play a key role in weight reduction of launch payloads. It will ultimately serve the requirements of astronauts as well as those living on this planet.