The other week NASA transmitted a wrench to the International Space Station by 3D printing. We did it, too.
It was indeed a significant milestone. The ratcheting socket wrench was quickly designed by the ground team at Made In Space, then the 3D model was transmitted to the ISS for printing on their experimental orbiting 3D printer.
It was almost like teleportation, where an object was “beamed” into orbit.
Fortunately, NASA has made the 3D model available to the public. But if a model is public, then you can print it yourself.
And we did.
The model is actually quite clever. With a single print that requires no support structures, you receive a functioning tool with moving parts. The key to the design is the cylindrical rotor that’s surrounded - but not touching - the main part of the tool. The model proceeds straight up and the rotor is free once removed from the print bed. You can see how this works in the image above during mid-print. The tool actually works, too, although its strength depends utterly on the material and interior fill density.
But it’s more than just an interesting model. It’s the first approximation of Star Trek-like teleportation that’s ever happened.
Here’s the best part: you can “listen in” on the teleportation transaction by printing one yourself. It’s like snagging a copy of Captain Picard’s teacup without him knowing. Give it a try!