3D Plastic Printing Gets Intergalactic Boost

3D printing is so mid-2016. More au courant? 3D printing in zero gravity.

In an effort to keep aerospace transportation costs as close to the space vest as possible, a group of Danish students has developed a 3D printing solution.

With CosmoCrops, space travel gets the lift it needs. Think about it: Rather than having to send a whack of individual objects that cosmic travelers might potentially need up into the stratosphere with them, this development has them travelling in the minimalist company of just a handful of basic 3D printable supplies. Such innovation is a marvel considering that every pound costs some US$10,000 to ship into space.

CosmoCrops is unique for taking the 3D printing concept one step further than the rest by exploring the potential for interstellar missions to use a custom “coculturing” system to grow a range of materials—including food, drugs and plastics—in space.

This still fantastical hypothesis starts with bacteria, the most basic substructure of almost everything. Microalgae harvest sunlight and produce sugars en evolutionary route to a preprogrammed destination. Ideally, these single-celled organisms eventually morph into bio-plastics that can then be 3D printed into, say, plastic cups or toothbrushes.

“The development of better ways to exploit sunlight in the production of biomaterials can lead to more sustainable and diverse production methods,” the students enthuse on their university website.

The method builds upon similar coculture systems developed here on earth, but blasts them into space where their value and cost-effectiveness is brought into sharper focus.

The students hope to have a functioning coculture system in operation before the end of the year. Further down the line, they’ll have to address the issue of sunlight on Mars, which is about 44% less of the stuff than Earth.

 

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