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Space: The Final Frontier for 3D Printing

A real-life version of Star Trek's replicator may soon churn out spare parts and chocolate bars on the International Space Station.

By next year, the Star Trek replicator will no longer be the stuff of science fiction.

A start-up called Made in Space has teamed up with NASA to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS), Space reports. The off-planet facility will be the first of its kind and is set to launch sometime in August 2014.

The intergalactic 3D printer will come with a cargo mission that the private spaceflight company SpaceX is launching to the orbiting lab for NASA. 

"The 3D print experiment with NASA is a step towards the future," said Aaron Kemmer, Made in Space's CEO. "The ability to 3D print parts and tools on-demand greatly increases the reliability and safety of space missions, while also dropping the cost by orders of magnitude." 

The printers will also help astronauts print certain parts and tools as they need them, VentureBeat notes. Roughly 30 percent of the parts on the ISS could be manufactured via 3D printing.

The Made in Space project might focus on building spare parts, but NASA's not overlooking more pertinent matters. According to VentureBeat, the organization has sunk $125,000 into a research project with the hopes of bringing 3D printed pizza and chocolate to the great beyond.

Last updated: May 29, 2013


Julie Strickland covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.

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