Can You 3D Print In Outer Space? Zero gravity 3D printing.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been gradually integrated into nearly every industry. From the medical industry to the space industry, 3D printing has revolutionized the way that we approach problems and create parts

It is possible to 3D print in outer space and with zero gravity conditions. In fact, it would actually be favorable to print in outer space than with Earth’s gravity. With regular gravity 3D printing an item is usually dramatically affected if it has steep overhangs or any kind of bridging.

It is also beneficial to 3D print items in space rather than transport items to space because the volume of a spool of 3D printer filament will be much smaller than the volume of parts that the same amount of filament can produce. 

The main factor to consider is time and material composition. If the ISS needs a wrench that will be put under extreme stress, they will probably not be able to produce the needed wrench with an FDM 3D printer and should bring the item from earth. On the other hand if they need light duty parts or tools, 3D printing is a perfect solution.

Is 3D Printing Currently Being Used In Outer Space?

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is currently being used in outer space on the International Space Station. The first print performed on the ISS was on November 17, 2014 on a printer produced by “Made In Space”.

There aren’t many options for astronauts on the international space station to get parts that they need besides launching a new rocket for additional supplies. The obvious option and the motto of NASA’s mission is “Make it dont take it”.

By taking materials to space rather than parts they can print parts as they need them which will provide more space on the ISS to work and move by not having to store bulky parts that take up a lot of volume and also will allow the astronauts to create replacements for broken or damaged parts.

Imagine the possibilities, if an astronaut is injured in space and breaks a limb they can 3D print a cast that is a perfect fit for the astronaut, or i a knob or switch breaks on one of their control panels they can easily print a replacement.

Can You 3D Print In Zero Gravity?

It is favorable to print in zero gravity over regular earth gravity due to the lack of pressure that would usually be put on 3D printed overhangs and steep angles. A 3D printer usually struggles to create steep angles which is directly caused by the force of gravity.

For overhangs like the “All In One 3D Printer test” on thingiverse. The overhangs shown in red are greater than 45° and would typically be very difficult for the average 3D printer to create. 

In zero gravity the “overhangs” would have no forces of gravity acting against them and would therefore be exactly like printing the part with no overhangs at all.

Does The ISS Have A 3D Printer?

The ISS has had an onboard 3D printer since late 2014. The 3D printer is produced by a company called Made In Space and 

The 3D printer on the ISS is a small, enclosed, direct drive, FDM printer that runs on linear rails similar to a FlashForge Guider 2s or a Makerbot Method X. 

The made in space 3D printer is not any more capable than a printer that could be bought from the average 3D printer manufacturer besides its reliability as well as the ability for it to be completely controlled from mission control on Earth. 

It is important for the printer to be completely controllable from Earth to limit the amount of time the astronauts have to spend on 3D printing tasks. 

There are some things that can not be done remotely with the Made In Space printer such as removing parts from the print bed, clearing clogs in the extruder or nozzle, as well as replacing the 3D printer nozzle. 

All of the tasks that have to be done manually are fairly simple tasks and could be performed by nearly anyone with minor training. 

What Is Currently Being 3D Printed In Space?

The 3D printer on the ISS is intended for creating spare and replacement parts for items that are unobtainable in space. The ISS 3D printer can also be used to produce tools and equipment that will make the daily tasks of the astronauts easier.

Basically anything that an astronaut might need is only hours of print time away from 

The first functional tool that was printed on the ISS is a 3IN-LB wrench as shown in the pictures below. NASA website there is a directory of 3D printable models which includes a few of the tools that they use on the ISS (including the .STL for the wrench).

In the future as 3D printing technology improves we should be seeing metal 3D printing in outer space as well as 3D printing electronics such as motherboards and electrical connectors.


3D printing is one of the most significant technological advances that manufacturing has ever seen. The ability to transform a dense spool of material into virtually any shape with very little waste is one of the most incredible feats that manufacturing has ever seen.

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