How NASA’s 3D-Printers Test Recycling Plastic in Space review

NASA’s 3D-printing program began with making tiny wrenches and may end up building infrastructure on the moon. In between these moments, however, astronauts aboard the International Space Station are analyzing technologies designed to make the printing process more effective.
The space station is currently home to 2 3D printers, one known as the Refabricator and another called the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). A third device, the Recycler, is intended to recycle used substance to conserve weight and room around the ISS, much like the Refabricator. Each works in a somewhat different way, and astronauts are trying to determine which works best.
In addition to basics like tools and tiny parts, NASA hopes that the 3D printers are going to have the ability to publish items that are safe for medical and food usage, and — once the proposed Artemis 1 assignment is complete — could even use moon dirt as printing material.


“You wish to recycle what materials you have without having to take everything with you,” says Corky Clinton, associate manager for the science and technology office in NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.”You don’t wish to take 1,000 spoons to Mars.”
NASA’s first 3D printer came on the ISS at 2014. It joined a traditional 2D printer which astronauts use to print mission-critical files and personal documents such as family photos, as featured in a 2018″Feds in the Field” video.
Recycling 3D-Printed Material Creates a Normal Source of Feedstock
The AMF was part of a technology presentation to see how nicely printing worked in microgravity. The picture of grinning astronaut Butch Wilmore holding the little wrench printed on board the ISS remains an iconic picture of this In-Space Manufacturing app, Clinton states.
But that printer needed fresh material to create its own tools. Sending that up into the ISS is pricey; keeping it takes up valuable space. NASA started investigating ways to recycle plastic already on board the space station, including plastic packaging, 3D-printed tools which are no longer needed and other plastic waste.
The first recycling printer sent to the ISS, the Refabricator, has been on board for about a year. It was made to recycle 3D-printed plastic into parts and tools which are then sent back to Earth for analysis to learn how the recycling process impacts the fundamental structure of this plastic.
Currently, astronauts are analyzing just the bonding properties of the recycled material; an anomaly is preventing them from further demonstrations of the recycling and print purposes, Clinton says. The Refabricator will be coming back to Earth in December to get an extensive evaluation.
Recycling 3D-Printed Material Creates a Normal Supply of Feedstock
The AMF was a part of a technology presentation to see how nicely printing worked in microgravity. The picture of grinning astronaut Butch Wilmore holding up the little wrench published on board the ISS remains an iconic picture of the In-Space Manufacturing program, Clinton states.
However, that printer had fresh material to make its own tools. Sending that up into the ISS is pricey; keeping it takes up precious space. NASA began researching ways to recycle plastic already on board the space station, including vinyl packaging, 3D-printed tools that are no longer needed and other plastic waste.
The very first recycling printer delivered to the ISS, the Refabricator, was on board for about a year. It was made to recycle 3D-printed plastic into parts and tools that are then sent back to Earth for analysis to learn how the recycling procedure affects the fundamental construction of the plasticsheeting.
Presently, astronauts are analyzing only the bonding properties of the recycled material; an anomaly is preventing them from additional demonstrations of the recycling and print functions, Clinton states. The Refabricator will return to Earth in December to get an extensive evaluation.