Tag Archives: additive manufacturing

First Ever 3D Printed Object Made From Asteroid / Meteorite Metals

Peter Lobner

In a 31 December 2015 post, I discussed the “U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” which was signed into law on 25 November 2015 and established, among other things, the legal basis for asteroid mining. I also identified the firm Planetary Resources (http://www.planetaryresources.com/ – home-intro) as one of the firms having a business interest in asteroid prospecting.

Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) today in Las Vegas, Planetary Resources announced that they, in collaboration with their partner firm, 3D Systems (http://www.3dsystems.com), have produced the first ever direct metal print of an object using metals recovered from an asteroid (or meteorite) that impacted Earth.

PlanetaryResources_3DSystems_Meteorite2_LOW-680x355 Source: Planetary Resources

In the Planetary Resources announcement, they stated that the material used for 3D printing:

  • “…was sourced from the Campo Del Cielo impact near Argentina, and is composed of iron, nickel and cobalt – similar materials to refinery grade steel.”
  • “ …was pulverized, powdered and (then) processed on the new 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 metals 3D printer.”

You can read the announcement at the following link:


You can read more about the ProX DMP 320 3D printer at the following link:


The milestone announced today demonstrates a key capability needed for building research bases and commercial facilities in space using raw materials found on another body in our solar system.

Imagine what the cargo manifest will be on future space missions to destinations that have useful natural resources that can be mined and prepared on site for use in various 3D printing (additive manufacturing) activities. The early missions will need to carry pre-fabricated structures for an initial base, tools for initial mining and manufacturing work, other items manufactured on Earth, and consumables. Once the on-site mining and manufacturing facilities reach an initial operating capability, the extended supply chain from Earth can be reduced commensurate with the capabilities of the local supply chain.

For more background information on this subject, National Academies Press published the  report, “3D Printing in Space”, which you can download for free at the following link if you have set up a MyNAP account:


18871-0309310083-450  Source:  NAP

Opportunities for 3D printing in space addressed in this NAP report include: manufacturing new or replacement parts needed on a space vehicle or off-Earth facility; creating structures that are difficult to produce on, or transport from, Earth; creating a fully-printed spacecraft; using resources available on planetary surfaces; recycling materials in space; and establishing a free-flying fabrication facility.  The report also includes roadmaps for NASA and the U.S. Air Force deployment of 3D printing capabilities in space.

This is just the start. Manufacturing in space using locally sourced materials will revolutionize our approach for building a permanent human presence off the planet Earth.

Scalability of 3-D Printing (additive manufacturing)

Peter Lobner

We are only now starting to see the very broad implications of 3-D printing technology in many disciplines, some of which would not be considered as traditional “manufacturing” activities. Since the “ink” can be almost anything, and the scalability of the technology is vast, the potential applications are much broader than the early applications conceived so far.

Here are a couple of examples that illustrate the scalability of 3-D printing technology and show how the computer system driving the printer adds a layer of intelligence needed to manufacture remarkable products.

Where do you see applications for this technology?

Medical application: Treating burn victims

In Feb 2015, Wake Forest School of Medicine announced that it had designed, built and tested a printer capable of printing skin cells directly onto burn wounds. The “ink” is actually different kinds of skin cells. A scanner is used to determine wound size and depth. Different kinds of skin cells are found at different depths. With this data, a computer guides the printer as it applies layers of the correct type of cells to cover the wound.   Read the story at the following link:


Another approach for treating burn victims was announced in 2014 by the University of Toronto. Their solution is called the “PrintAlive” 3-D bioprinter, which is  capable of manufacturing continuous layers of tissue – including hair follicles, sweat glands and other human skin complexities – onto a hydrogel that can be used in place of conventional skin grafts. Read the story at the following link:


The students who developed the PrintAlive machine were the Canadian winners of the 2014 James Dyson Award, that is intended to that celebrate, encourage and inspire the next generation of design engineers.

Construction application: Building a house

This is a really large-scale application of 3-D printing technology that also requires a stock of certain parts that are more easily emplaced where needed rather than printing them in place (i.e., windows, doors, floors and ceilings). Additive manufacturing could be used to separately produce most of these emplaced items.


Read the article and see the 6 min video of the construction process at the following link: