Planetary Resources is a mining company in a totally different way of what you would expect a mining company to be – they want to mine asteroids for metals to use on earth. Moreover, this metal could also be used for 3D printing in space.
In space there are huge amounts of metal and precious metals flying around in form of asteroids. As these elements become sparse on earth or are just to expensive to be processed on earth and sent back to space, the option of using technologies like 3D printing to process the materials right where they are needed, sounds quite promising.
3D Systems and Planetary Resources just made an exciting announcement at CES in Las Vegas. They managed to 3D print an object from metal, which had been sourced from an asteroid. This asteroid crashed in Argentina a few million years ago and consists of iron, nickel and cobalt. The powder obtained from the asteroid was 3D printed using 3D Systems new ProX DMP 320 metal 3D printer.
This breakthrough marks the next step of the plans of the European Space Agency (ESA) to 3D print a lunar base. Using actual materials from space could eliminate the need of pricey distribution via rockets. The next problem to solve is how to process these materials in space. Made in Space and NASA achieved this by using plastics. However, printing metal is on a whole new level.