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There have been some excellent adaptations of 3D printing technology in recent years. In the beginning, 3D printers were primarily used for rapid prototyping for engineers, but gradually became a tool for hobbyists and medical research. However, there is an exciting new opening in 3D Printing Careers as the field moves into food production in space.
The beginning research into the field is already happening.
One of the most urgent needs in the aerospace industry is food. Astronauts do not get to enjoy the kinds of foods they enjoy on the ground. There are several reasons why, but the low gravity environment is one of the major problems. You can't cook in space due to the low gravity and that means all their food has to come prepackaged. They live on a steady diet of what are basically microwave meals and no one wants that. A recent funding project from NASA is helping to end that problem.
Anjan Contractor, a mechanical engineer, received funding to develop 3D printing for space exploration. His first accomplishment was the development of a printer capable of making pizza. The printer, a modification of the Rep-Rap design, has basic materials stored in the same kinds of modules used for storing plastics. The major difference is the addition of a heated plate for deposition of the food for cooking. The combination of enclosed supply modules, direct placement of the materials without danger of leaking and the heated place makes printing pizza in space a safe operation.
What areas of research are available?
Of course, this is just the first steps in this area. There is a lot of research and development which needs to be done. What kinds of foods can we produce safely? How do we preserve the food for long voyages? In fact, one of the consideration used by Anjan is creating food modules which can last for thirty years. How do we adapt the storage modules for operation with such a wide variety of substances? There are other question involved which are not food related.
The machines built so far all have on thing in common. They are designed based on the premise that standard gravity is available. This is not generally true in space and designs for food printing must take that into account. How will the system operate without gravity? Will the food stay on the surface where it's being placed? This is incredibly important because pieces of floating food would be incredibly dangerous for people and the systems they rely on. For example, liquids tend to spread any surface they touch in space and having a hot liquid touch an astronaut would be very damaging. We will need to know how to pressurize the supply modules for machines, too. Can we make them refillable?
Become the space chef of tomorrow.
There are so many opportunities in this area. All of these issues need to be solved and it will be an excellent career opportunity for those wanting to be involved with the human future in space. Space isn't just for astronauts anymore?
If you want to explore this fascinating career opportunity, or any other opportunity in 3D printing.