The International Space Station’s 3-D printer finished the first phase of a NASA tech demo by printing a ratchet wrench with a design file that had been transmitted from the ground to the printer.
“For the printer’s final test in this phase of operations, NASA wanted to validate the process for printing on demand, which will be critical on longer journeys to Mars,” explained Niki Werkheiser, the space station 3-D printer program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “In less than a week, the ratchet was designed, approved by safety and other NASA reviewers, and the file was sent to space where the printer made the wrench in four hours.”
This ratchet wrench will come back to Earth for analysis and testing, along with the other space-printed parts. The 4.48-inch-long by 1.29-inch-wide wrench was designed by Noah Paul-Gin, an engineer at Made In Space Inc., a northern California company that NASA contracted to design, build and operate the printer. The 3-D printer built the wrench by depositing 104 layers of plastic in an additive manufacturing process.