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China's First Verification of 3D Printing Technology in Space

May 20, 2020

China's first verification of 3D printing technology in space-01

The space 3D printing system developed by 529 plant of China Academy of space technology was tested on the ground. Drawings provided by China Academy of space technology (photographed by Chen Yuan)

Xinhua news agency, Beijing, May 9 (reporter quanxiaoshu Yufei) a "composite space 3D printer" independently developed by China and two samples printed on orbit successfully returned to Dongfeng landing site with the return capsule of China's new generation manned spacecraft test ship on May 8.


This is the first time for China to carry out orbit 3D printing test, and also the first time for the world to realize space 3D printing of continuous carbon fiber reinforced composite materials.

At 1:58 on May 7, the space 3D printing system developed by 529 plant of China Academy of space technology fully completed the scheduled task, and the images transmitted by the spacecraft showed that two samples were printed successfully and clearly. The researchers will also carry out further performance testing and comprehensive evaluation on the returned printers and samples.

China's First Verification of 3D Printing Technology in Space

A sample of space 3D printing system in orbit. Drawings provided by China Academy of space technology (photographed by Chen Yuan)

It is reported that carbon fiber has been widely used as a lightweight and high-strength material in aerospace, and continuous carbon fiber has significant significance for improving the performance of composite materials. The two samples of 3D printing realized the continuous filament of carbon fiber, which laid an important technical foundation for the application of 3D printing of composite materials in the future.

The Chinese Academy of space technology pointed out that the printing system also realized the whole process of unattended and automatic control.

China's First Verification of 3D Printing Technology in Space-3

A sample of space 3D printing system in orbit. Drawings provided by China Academy of space technology (photographed by Chen Yuan)

The existing microgravity 3D printer research at home and abroad has been participated in, controlled and managed by people. When the equipment starts, heats, prints and other links work abnormally, people can intervene. The space test was unattended, and the system itself completed all the scheduled tasks. Its development experience in structure, motion control, power lighting, camera monitoring and so on will provide important technical reference for the follow-up space 3D printing tasks.

At the same time, this experiment also realized the overall verification of 3D printing forming mechanism in microgravity environment.

China's First Verification of 3D Printing Technology in Space-4

The space 3D printing system developed by 529 plant of China Academy of space technology was tested on the ground. Drawings provided by China Academy of space technology (photographed by Chen Yuan)

Space 3D printing is different from ground 3D printing, the most important difference is the influence of microgravity environment on printing process. Therefore, weightless aircraft is used for parabolic flight test at home and abroad, but a parabolic cycle can only provide microgravity environment of about 20 seconds.

China Academy of space technology pointed out that after the spacecraft entered the scheduled orbit, it can provide a long-term microgravity stable environment. It can not only inspect the material forming process, but also test the reliability, movement accuracy and forming quality of the printing system structure.

The 3D printed sample returned with the return cabin can show the influence of microgravity on materials, structural mechanism, control, forming, etc. its experience and results are more suitable to be extended to the on orbit construction of extravehicular and large-scale structures.

In addition, the new generation of manned spacecraft test ship also carries the world's first cube star deployer based on Metal 3D printer.

China's First Verification of 3D Printing Technology in Space-6

Sources from: https://creality3dpro.store/blogs/news