NASA’s Refabricator recycling 3D printer makes space the place for green materials

Tooling around on the International Space Station. A 3D printed KOBALT wrench made by the Additive Manufacturing Facility. Photo via Made in Space/NASARobust and refrigerator-like, the ‘Refabricator’ is poised to lead NASA’s recycling initiative for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Set to launch 2018, the machine is capable of crunching plastic parts back into raw materials, and 3D printing them anew as tools and spare parts.

Preparing for “space at a premium”

NASA has awarded approximately $750,000 to the Refabricator project, taken on by Seattle-based space technology company, Tethers Unlimited Inc.

Niki Werkheiser, manager of In-Space Manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center who will test the machine, comments “When we begin launching humans to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, space will be at a premium.”

“It simply won’t be feasible to send along replacement parts or tools for everything on the spacecraft, and resupplying from Earth is cost and time prohibitive. The Refabricator will be key in demonstrating a sustainable logistics model to fabricate, recycle, and reuse parts and waste materials.”

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