#1303: SpaceFab

I’ve been thinking about how to get hold of a desktop manufacturing kit lately (without having $750 easily to hand).

This led to today’s invention: microgravity desktop manufacture.

There are lots of difficulties in trying to arrange additive manufacture processes within the Earth’s gravitational field. Depositing particles means placing them atop layers of other particles, which often enforces an unnatural sequence for eg 3-D printing. This makes creating ‘undercuts’ pretty complicated.

In a spacecraft experiencing the microgravity of Earth orbit, a desktop manufacturing system could consist of a robotic cell, open to the vacuum of space, in which droplets of epoxy-like material could be extruded by a computer-controlled nozzle.

These could be placed precisely anywhere in 3 dimensions, allowing easy fabrication of undercuts (and even wholly internal, unattached features).

Useful perhaps for building new components en route to distant planets.