Astronaut makes new tool in space with 3D printer

ISS Commander Butch Wilmore with the 3D-printed ratchet.

ISS Commander Butch Wilmore with the 3D-printed ratchet.  

There may be no corner hardware store at the International Space Station, but that does not mean the astronauts cannot get what they need.

In a first, the space station crew was able to craft a new tool in space, using their specially designed zero gravity 3D printer and a design e-mailed from the ground.

The tool, a ratchet, was designed by Made in Space, the California company that created the 3D printer on board the orbiting space lab.

The 3D printer has been used on the space station before, but only for designs that were tested and loaded before it left Earth.

This time, the tool was designed and tested on the ground and then e-mailed to the printer, which spit it out in about four hours, the company said in a statement.

A prototype was printed at a lab in California and sent to NASA for safety inspection and then the design file was sent to the printer. — AFP

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