CES 2016 came with one of the most impressive presentations in recent history. And this isn’t as much about the technology itself, as it is about the end result and the materials used. People who were present at this year’s CES may have had the honor to see the world’s first 3D printed object out of alien materials.
- The product was a collaboration between asteroid mining company Planetary Resources and 3D Systems
- The metal used was from a meteorite found in Argentina
- It was oriented via 3D Systems’ ProX DMP 320 metals 3D printer
- The end result resembles the currently in development Arkyd spacecraft
- Planetary Resources was funded in 2012 by Larry Page, co-founder of Google
By cutting the meteor in half, the team found that it was made out of a very dense metal. The meteorite found in Argentina was made out of a composition of cobalt, iron, and nickel, materials very similar to refinery grade steel.
The team then took the upper half and pulverized via a process that uses plasma to turn metal into a cloud of vapor. What remained was a very fine metallic powder which can be extracted in a vacuum.
3D Systems’ commercially available ProX DMP 320 metals 3D printer was then employed, and using the fine metal dust as 3D printer ink, the resulting object was created layer after layer.
What resulted was a tiny, 3D printed model of a spaceship component, which resembles Planetary Resources’ Arkyd spacecraft, currently in development.
The team’s next mission is to see if they can employ the use of their 3D printers in space, as they have very big plans for the printers’ use.
Some of these plans include using the printers to create colonies on Mars from the resources found right there on the planet, and even moving industrial processes to asteroids or even other planets, so as to reduce pollution levels, as well as production space here on Earth.
Many have looked with skepticism at the new asteroid mining law passed by Barack Obama, especially since it might be in direct contradiction with the Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967.
However, the company is moving ahead with the planning of their first asteroid mining expedition, despite international criticism.
Because of multiple flaws in the old treaty, some legal disputes cannot really be properly assessed without any precedent. So, in order to see if asteroid mining is in breach of the treaty, at least one case will have to reach international courtrooms.
Image source: Wikimedia