Tomsk Polytechnic University developed the first Russian 3D printer for printing in space microgravity. This was reported by the press service of the university.
Currently, two flight models (RSC Energia) have been delivered to the customer. One of them will go to the ISS in June 2022. The printer will be used by Russian cosmonauts to make the parts needed to run the station’s equipment.
Development took more than three years. Tomsk Polytechnic University specialists were faced with the task of making an apparatus that would allow astronauts to quickly and directly create the small parts they need at the station, so that they do not have to be delivered from Earth.
The main issue during development was to account for differences from weightlessness for 3D printing of terrestrial conditions. Gravity contributes significantly to the adhesion of the layers to each other during the formation of the part. If there is no gravity, the printer’s design and printing technology must be changed.
The new printer, based on a specific 3D model, prints the desired object in layers from a polymeric material – polylactic acid, this is one of the most common polymers. Pieces made in this way are very robust but at the same time light.
The working room of the printer where the printing process takes place is completely closed. It is equipped with thermal control, ventilation, circulation and air purification systems. This is important to remove the thermal decomposition products of the plastic from the atmosphere of the workroom and to ensure the safety of the station crew. Such elements are not provided in conventional printers. The size of the device approaches the size of a conventional CRT TV.