International Space Station commander Barry Wilmore needed a wrench. Normally NASA would send one up on the next mission to the International Space Station. It would arrive eventually, but that would have left Wilmore waiting for months. Instead, NASA “emailed” one to Wilmore and he printed it out right there on the ISS.
Commander Wilmore’s wrench wasn’t the first object 3D printed in space, but it was the first object to be designed on Earth and then transmitted into space for manufacture. California company Made In Space designed the 3D printer Wilmore used as well as the ratcheting socket wrench that made history.
Mike Chen from Made In Space thinks this is just the beginning. “On the ISS this type of technology translates to lower costs for experiments, faster design iteration, and a safer, better experience for the crew members, who can use it to replace broken parts or create new tools on demand.” It’s an incredible feat, but we’re still waiting for the day when we can buy things off Amazon and print them right in our living rooms.