Category Archives: Technology

3D Printer in Space

The most recent SpaceX commercial resupply mission has something interesting on it for the International Space Station, a 3D Printer.  They’re going to use it to make replacement parts, so they don’t have to wait for them to arrive on later resupply missions.

But I have a question.  Is this really a printer?  To me, printers print text or pictures onto paper.  A 3D printer doesn’t print ink or use lasers to create images on paper.  It actually uses a material that is chosen for the object and thin slices are laid on top additively to create the object.  This technology has been around for around 30 years and uses a CAD software to create the objects.  But is this printing?

It’s more like assembling or manufacturing, actually.  But in a way it’s replicating existing objects based on a plan stored in a computer.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  In Star Trek, replicators have been used since The Next Generation, and they’ve been replicating things using a similar principle, except they do it atom by atom.  This does it in a more crude way, layer by layer.  But still, I think this is a rudimentary replicator.  So why keep calling it a 3D Printer?  Let’s call it a Replicator!  Who’s with me?

Advertisements