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International Space Station's new 3-D printer reuses old plastic for custom tools



It can even create the raw 3-D printer filament from old packaging supplies, such as foam and plastic materials that NASA uses to pack its cargo for travel to space. Most 3-D printers cannot recycle plastic when printed because the way they print reduces the integrity of the plastic. But Refabricator uses a different printing method so it can reprint the same material many times.

NASA hopes that the new printer / recycler will both free up space on future readings and reduce overall waste on the ISS. It can even lead to 3-D printers on Earth, which in one day use the items we usually put on the curb, like water bottles or plastic bags, to create brand new custom materials for our home.

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. developed Refabricator for NASA's In-Space Manufacturing Office. Their whole creation fits into a cube about the size of a mini fridge. The company can monitor Earth's Refabricator, but astronauts on the ISS will perform the operations.

For this first test flight, it will mean that Refabricator prints, reuses, and repeats creations up to seven times in a loop to prove that the material is not weakened by repeated reuse. These final prints will then be returned to Earth for testing ̵

1; especially to see if and how the printing process differs in space from the ground.

Check Refabricator in action with the NASA video below:


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