Planetary Resources and 3D Systems unveiled the first 3D printed object from asteroid metals at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which was held from January 6-9, 2016. The space mining company and its partner and investor, specialized in 3D printing, showed how objects can be printed from asteroid metal. This process exploits a loophole opened by the U.S. Congress, which in November 2015 voted a law authorizing U.S. companies to appropriate and sell metals extracted from the moon, asteroids and other celestial bodies.
3D Systems wanted to show off the functions of its latest metal printing machine, the ProX DMP 320. Inviting CES visitors to dream about the possibilities unleashed by the convergence of their innovations, Planetary Resources and 3D Systems printed a piece of the Arkyd space module using metal from a prehistoric asteroid found in Argentina, thus proving that essential parts of space modules can be made and repaired directly in space—while highlighting Planetary Resources’ Arkyd module design, thanks to 3D Systems’ additive technologies.
However, the process remains delicate, just as the required infrastructure is imposing. The machine uses a plasma that pulverizes the meteorite into a cloud of nickel and iron, then precipitates through a vacuum (like rain) the extractable titanium powder, which constitutes the raw material for printing.
We are literally at the iron age of extra-terrestrial 3D printing… and this time, the U.S. pioneers’ new gold rush aims straight for outer space.