NASA is planning to launch a 3D printer and recycling machine called The Refabricator to the ISS next spring. The machine combines recycling and 3D printing into one device for the first time and will be controlled by technician’s here on Earth so that the astronauts only need to recycle the plastic and remove the parts from the machine when they’re finished. The Refabricator takes plastic and recycles it into a liquid that can be used to create the filament needed for the print, and is about the size of a mini-fridge.
NASA currently uses a 3D printer in space to create their own tools and medical supplies aboard the ISS. This was intended to reduce the cost of launching supplies into space, but they still have to launch the filament used for the 3D printer to the space station, which can be quite costly; according to NASA, it costs $10,000 to launch one pound of payload into Earth’s orbit (https://3dprint.com/186521/refabricator-device-to-iss/). The Refabricator could solve this issue while at the same time creating a no-waste zone in space.
Ultimately, NASA wants to be able to use this technology to create a 3D printer/recycler that can be used on the moon and on Mars. It’s not affordable to bring extra parts and supplies needed in case something goes wrong, but if they had a 3D printer/recycler, astronauts could use their own waste to create the filament needed to print a new part. As for here on Earth, in the future this could mean that we could turn entire landfills into construction material and finally put all of that wasted plastic to use (https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/refabricator-modelling-recycling-78758/).
Waste360 Staff | Sep 06, 2017. “NASA to Utilize 3D Printer to Recycle Plastic in Space.”Waste360, Waste360, 6 Sept. 2017, www.waste360.com/plastics/nasa-utilize-3d-printer-recycle-plastic-space.
Hall, Nick. “ReFabricator: Modelling for Recycling and More.” 3D Printing Industry, 3D Printing Industry, 26 Aug. 2017, https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/refabricator-modelling-recycling-78758/.
Saunders, Sarah. “The Refabricator Will Be Recycling Plastic and 3D Printing Onboard the ISS Next Year.” 3DPrint.Com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, 6 Sept. 2017, https://3dprint.com/186521/refabricator-device-to-iss/.