Title: “Berkeley Scientists Deploy Another 3D Printer into Outer Space”

The team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has successfully launched another 3D printer into space. This marks a significant stride in the ongoing efforts to increase human capacity for long-duration space missions and possibly, colonizing other planets.

The Berkeley team, in collaboration with NASA, aims to establish reliable and efficient manufacturing capabilities in space. This will solve the problem of bringing every single item required for a mission from Earth, which is both costly and risky. In the event of an emergency or a failure of a critical component, astronauts can use the 3D printer to manufacture the required part on demand.

The 3D printer has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be used to print out various parts and tools needed by the astronauts. It uses a technology called ‘volumetric 3D printing’ which is faster, more reliable, and capable of producing more complex objects than traditional 3D printing methods.

Volumetric 3D printing works by projecting beams of light into a container full of a special type of resin. The points where the beams intersect become solid, while the rest remains liquid. This process allows complex objects to be printed quickly and in one piece, rather than layer by layer as in traditional 3D printing.

The 3D printer sent by the Berkeley team is not the first to be sent into space. However, it is the first to use volumetric 3D printing technology, which is expected to revolutionize manufacturing in space. It can print using various materials, including metal, plastic, and composite materials. This capability is critical for future space missions where a wide range of parts and tools will be needed.

One of the challenges of 3D printing in space is dealing with zero gravity. Without gravity, printed parts can float away before they are fully formed. The Berkeley team has solved this problem by designing a special container that keeps the resin in place during the printing process.

This mission’s success could be a game-changer for space exploration. It could pave the way for the construction of habitats on other planets, repair of spacecraft in space, and even the creation of food and medical supplies. It also could mean that future astronauts could be more self-sufficient, needing to carry fewer supplies from Earth.

Indeed, the ability to manufacture items in space could prove crucial for long-duration missions, such as a manned mission to Mars. Astronauts could produce their own spare parts, tools, or even habitats, reducing the need to bring every single item from Earth.

While this is just the beginning, the potential applications of 3D printing in space are vast. The success of the Berkeley team marks a significant milestone in this journey. It brings us closer to the vision of a future where humans can live and work in space, sustained by resources produced in space.

The field of space exploration has recently been exploring the potential of 3D printing technology, with notable examples such as the Refabricator and the metal 3D printer from AddUp. A research team from Berkeley University, led by Ph.D. student Taylor Waddell, has also ventured into this area, by launching the microgravity 3D printer, SpaceCAL, into space for the first time on June 8th as part of the Virgin Galactic 07 mission.

The SpaceCAL printer, being aboard the VSS Unity space plane, spent 140 seconds in suborbital space, where it independently printed and post-processed four test parts. These parts included space shuttles and benchy figurines made from a liquid plastic called PEGDA. Waddell stated that although SpaceCAL had performed well under microgravity conditions during past parabolic flights, the latest mission has provided an opportunity to further validate the readiness of this 3D printing technology for space travel. The mission was funded through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, with support from Berkeley Engineering and the Berkeley Space Center.

Hayden Taylor, associate professor of mechanical engineering, led a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) that developed Computed Axial Lithography (CAL) technology in 2017. This additive manufacturing method uses light to shape solid objects from a viscous liquid, enabling a wider range of printable geometries and significantly increasing the printing speed of 3D parts. Importantly, it proved to function efficiently under microgravity conditions, opening up possibilities for its application in space exploration.

The exploration of 3D printing technology in space is still in its early stages, but the successful tests and applications of printers like the SpaceCAL and CAL technology are promising indications of its potential. As space missions continue to grow in complexity and duration, the ability to manufacture parts and tools in space could significantly reduce the costs and risks associated with launching these items from Earth. The research and development in this field are expected to continue, with the prospect of making significant contributions to the future of space exploration.

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