NASA Emails Tools to Space

By Ryan Koss

Christmas came early this year for the crew of the International Space Station. ISS Commander Barry Wilmore recently requested a specialized socket wrench to make some onboard repairs to the spacecraft. Sounds simple enough, right?

ISS Commander Barry Wilmore shows off his new wrench, created using a 3D printer.

Shipping supplies to the ISS is no easy task. Preparing rockets and precious cargo shipments is a process that can take months or even years to complete. Astronauts have long awaited an alternative to this costly and time-consuming method and it has finally arrived in the form of an…e-mail attachment.

This zero-gravity 3D printer was specially designed for astronauts.

That’s right. NASA e-mailed a wrench to the International Space Station. How? The socket wrench was digitally designed using Autodesk 3D modeling software and was saved and attached to an e-mail. Commander Wilmore was then able to download and print the file using a specially designed zero-gravity 3D printer.

Students at DMA prototype and refine their models using a 3D printer.

3D printers have become very popular in recent years and it isn’t too hard to see why. Projected to have had an increase in use of 93 percent during 2014, it doesn’t look like 3D printers are going away anytime soon. Whether you are an astronaut printing tools in space or a student in Digital Media Academy’s 3D Printing & Industrial Design course designing the next best-selling smartphone, 3D printing offers something for everyone.