- One of the most important areas will be fume capture. Unpleasant, if not toxic fumes are sometimes produced by 3D printers, depending on what you’re using as raw material. You don’t want to pollute the closed environment of a human-occupied spacecraft.
- Another area of interest would be waste capture, since many 3D printers issue dust, drips or fine bits that would no doubt disrupt or even damage a spacecraft as they float freely about the cabin in a micro-gravity environment.
- Safety concerns will be high, as some types of 3D printers have components that operate at very high temperatures and even high voltages. Orbital 3D printers would have to protect against heat damage by including physical or electrical safety measures.
- Function of the 3D printers in zero-gravity would have to be ensured. The right materials should still adhere even though no gravity would push layers together.
- Object finishing is often a dirty process, sometimes involving vacuum chambers or very sharp implements. Dangerous stuff for an orbital human environment.
The great promise of 3D printing combined with innovative 3D design (such as generative design) is to reduce parts and material waste while creating geometry that surpasses the capability of traditional subtractive machining.