Engineering office COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems has announced that it will begin final development and construction of a metal 3D printing system for NASA.
The company was selected back in 2017 to develop an electron beam 3D printer that supports NASA’s requirements for the automated manufacture and repair of components in space. Funded by NASA’s Langley Research CenterCOSM has worked tirelessly on its system for over three years, which is designed to support a wide variety of space, moon and Mars missions, starting with the Artemis program.
The Artemis program will see astronauts back on the moon by 2024. Image via NASA.
Autonomous metal 3D printing in space
COSM’s 3D printer is based on DED and uses an electron beam to melt metal wire coils into large complex parts. The core printing technology itself was developed in collaboration with NASA Langley as part of the EBF3 program (Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication), in which the present project serves as a follow-up work. The company has announced that it will be compatible with air and space critical metals such as titanium, inconel and aluminum.
Leverage the company’s extensive experience in use The printer has charged particle beams for imaging and measurement applications in the semiconductor sector and has functions for process monitoring, process control and fault detection in real time. This allows NASA to adjust its 3D printing parameters during the manufacturing process from its space centers on Earth.
Karen Taminger, Senior Materials Research Engineer and Technical Director at NASA Langley, said, “We are excited about the prospect of adding COSM’s high-precision electron beam capabilities to the EBF3 process to improve space welding and additive manufacturing for future exploration missions. The experience of COSM enables integrated visualization and recording in real time to control and inspect work in remote areas. “
According to Richard Comunale, Founder and CEO of COSM, the final phase of machine development will result in the core system components being validated for launch and operation during transit, as well as on the Moon and Mars.
NASA engineers inspect the EBF3 system at an early stage. Photo via NASA.
Become a multiplanetary species
COSM previously worked in a public-private partnership under NASA’s Directorate for Space Technology Mission (STMD) to help build a commercial Robot Assembly and Services (CIRAS) infrastructure in space. With the aim of helping mankind to occupy other celestial bodies, the CIRAS program has further developed a number of key technologies that will be of crucial importance for the manufacture in orbit and the assembly of large spatial structures.
Speaking of great efforts by COSM: Comunale sums up: “The autonomous production of large metal parts according to verifiable specifications and the quality in space will be an essential part of the constant presence of humans on the moon and further missions to Mars. This complex task is made possible by the fundamental technology developed by COSM with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center. This is an incredible opportunity and honor for our team to play a role in NASA’s Artemis program. “
With similar goals in mind Scientists from the Technical University of Braunschweig and Laser Center Hanover (LZH) recently 3D printed lunar regolith under weightlessness for the first time. As part of the ‘MOONRISE’ project, the team mounted a custom laser on their ‘MIRA3D’ moon rover and melted moondust into spherical shapes to pave the way for a Flight-ready model that future astronauts can use to create long-term structures on the moon.
Elsewhere, in Texas, construction company SYMBOL previously has a contract with NASA to develop a 3D printed off-world construction system for the moon. With the Olympus project, ICON will enter into a partnership with architectural offices LARGE and SEArch + To design robust lunar structures that are also built from materials available on the lunar surface.
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The image shown shows NASA engineers inspecting the EBF3 system at an early stage. Photo via NASA.