In space and forgotten your spanner? No problem. In November 2014 a 3D printer successfully printed its first object in space aboard the International Space Station, proving it is now possible to replicate tools and parts in orbit without hitching a lift back to earth.
Now a Seattle-based US space technology firm has far more ambitious plans for an orbiting digital fabrication factory. SpiderFab will use arachnid-like robots and 3D printers to build complicated structures from raw materials launched into space. This will pave the way for longer, revolutionary NASA expeditions, which could see us print entire buildings and eventually build a new home for mankind in space. Arachnophobic astronauts need not apply.
Robert P Hoyt, CEO and Chief Scientist, Tethers Unlimited Inc.