March 22nd, 2016 launch from NASA Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station of the Orbital Cygnus cargo ship with the Made In Space Additive Manufacturing Facility on board. Photo by NASA.
Autodesk colleague Jonathan Knowles (@jonathanknowles) is like Mr. Science + Mr. Technology, and a great person. Jonathan recently participated in the launch of the next generation of additive manufacturing and wrote the following to explain why this is a big deal in manufacturing and how Autodesk’s technology has launched into orbit.
Made In Space is developing manufacturing technologies that are enabling people to live and work in space. The Made In Space Additive Manufacturing Facility was launched on March 22nd, 2016 and arrived at the International Space Station on March 26th, 2016. This is a first step toward putting manufacturing systems on the Moon, Mars, and on deep space missions.
The AMF is a permanent manufacturing facility on the ISS, providing hardware manufacturing services to both NASA and the U.S. National Laboratory onboard. Designed to last the entire lifetime of the ISS, AMF will be able to manufacture complex objects, with fine precision, and with various extrudable materials including flexible polymers and aerospace grade composites. Made In Space owns the AMF while NASA and other customers will pay to use it. Using replaceable subassemblies, the AMF was designed so that it could easily be upgraded to add new functionality and manufacturing methods in the future.
The AMF was designed entirely using Autodesk tools Autodesk Inventor and Fusion 360. Autodesk’s Memento reality capture technology is built into the AMF. Autodesk has been a part of Made In Space since the beginning. [Ed. Autodesk's Jonathan Knowles, has served as an advisor to the team since the company was founded.] Made In Space has collaborated with Marshall Space Flight Center’s In-Space Manufacturing Group and NASA Advanced Exploration Systems in the development of the emerging in-space manufacturing industry. Lowe’s Innovation Labs is partnering with Made In Space on developing space-optimized tools making the AMF the first hardware store in space.
In addition to the AMF, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate has selected Made In Space for the NASA funded project, designated Archinaut™, which is designed to develop the necessary technologies to enable the first additive manufacturing, aggregation, and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronaut extravehicular activity. Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems will work as subcontractors to Made In Space to create the first system for 3D printing and assembling large structures in space, without direct, manual intervention on the part of an astronaut.
Archinaut is a game changer. Designing items intended to be deployed in space has traditionally been constrained by launch container size and environment survivability requirements. Add to that lift capacity limits and the high risk of launch, limited number of launch delivery options, and limited availability of astronauts for EVA, creating large space-based structures such as space stations has been a once-in-a-generation endeavor. Archinaut minimizes or removes these and other design limitations.
As we continue to explore our future off world and begin to set up the first human habitats on the moon and Mars, there will be no need to use rockets to send everything needed. We’ll have robots build build what we need using local resources.