The ability to manufacture new functional parts and critical components in the extraterrestrial environment has tremendous value for NASA. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a method of additive manufacturing (3D printing) compatible with the microgravity environment, and has been demonstrated on the ISS. To reach the full potential of in-space manufacturing, objects printed with FDM must have strength approaching that of metals used in critical space systems. Development of higher strength feedstocks for FDM and post process strengthening treatments have the potential to bridge the gap between printed thermoplastics and metals.
IOS will develop a novel 3D printable feedstock material and post printing process that will enable NASA to 3D print plastic parts with metal-like mechanical properties in space. The target program for this material is the NASA In-Space Manufacturing Program. This material and process will be compatible with the printing technology in the additive manufacturing facility (AMF) on the ISS, and will be compatible with FDM printing tools selected for the multi-material fabrication laboratory, FabLab, currently being developed through NASA's NextSTEP program.
The target program for this material is the NASA In-Space Manufacturing Program, but will be applicable to all future missions where in-space manufacturing is required. IOS's novel high strength thermoplastic feedstock and post print strengthening process will be compatible with the printing technology in the additive manufacturing facility on the ISS, and with the FDM printing tools selected for the multi-material fabrication laboratory, FabLab, being developed through NASA's NextSTEP program.
The proposed product will be sold as a thermoplastic material for fused deposition modeling (FDM) additive manufacturing (AM) with metal-like strength, greater than the strongest material now available, which will expand the FDM market space from rapid prototyping into production of functional parts. AM is used across all commercial sectors, and plastic is by far the most used material. Higher strength plastics will push this market space further towards the higher revenue production segment.