The first integrated recycler and 3D printer was successfully installed onboard the International Space Station into the station’s experiment racks. This technology demonstration, called a Refabricator, will turn plastic materials of various sizes and shapes into feedstock used to 3D print items. The entire process happens in a single automated machine about the size of a mini refrigerator.
“The Refabricator is key in demonstrating a sustainable model to fabricate, recycle and reuse parts and waste materials on extended space exploration missions,” said Niki Werkheiser, manager of in-space manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Refabricator was developed and built by Tethers Unlimited, Inc. for NASA’s in-space manufacturing project at Marshall with funding from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Experiment operations on the space station will begin soon.