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Device Like 'Star Trek' Replicator Might Fly on Space Station

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posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:35 AM

Space explorers have yet to get their hands on the replicator of "Star Trek" to create anything they might require. But NASA has developed a technology that could enable lunar colonists to carry out on-site manufacturing on the moon, or allow future astronauts to create critical spare parts during the long trip to Mars.

The method, called electron beam freeform fabrication (EBF3), uses an electron beam to melt metals and build objects layer by layer. Such an approach already promises to cut manufacturing costs for the aerospace industry, and could pioneer development of new materials. It has also thrilled astronauts on the International Space Station by dangling the possibility of designing new tools or objects, researchers said.

Wow this is cool - at first I thought this would be similar to one of those 3D printers where an object is built up from a vat of chemicals and a scanning laser... But no this is way cooler (albeit not a startrek replicator).

For EBF3, metal wires continually feed into the tip of an electron beam. The beam melts the wires and applies them carefully on top of a rotating plate to build an object up slowly, layer by layer.

A few similar technologies exist, but EBF3 has several advantages. First, its electron beam requires far less power than comparable devices and produces less radiation compared to more powerful beams. Its dual wire feeders also allow scientists to create mixes of new materials that vary in strength or other properties within the same solid piece.

This is really cool - they have got it working in zero G on that vomit comet aircraft, they even had it operating through zero G through to +2G as the plane pulled out of the dive!

They can even mix up the different metals fed into it so that the finished and solid piece can actually consist of differing alloys! - And they reckon they can build things like optical fibres right on in whatever object they are making!

I want one!

[edit on 11/11/2009 by Now_Then]

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:47 AM

A good youtube that The Utopian Penguin just linked me to over in Mutter

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:47 AM
using electron lasers to build metals. Building in microgravity new structural concepts

This is indeed kewl
Though as its also DARPA, it may end up being eeeeeevvvil...muhahaha

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:16 AM
reply to post by zazzafrazz

It's when the thing can make every single component it needs to build it's self then that's going to be both cool and sinister!!!

There is a project called RepRap - it's a 3D printer and it has been designed to make almost all of it's own components!! - That uses plastic, I'm seeing a few differing techs being brought together into a single unit very soon - what with printable circuits and what not I am seeing something with fantastic possibilities.... Give it some evil artificial intelligence and you have the makings of Sky Net

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:22 AM
Very interesting indeed. I'm hoping this will be more used for structuring metal with less fatigue and weak points. As with any invention I'm certain they'll find a way to misuse it.

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 01:37 PM
This is old technology; our aircraft industry has been doing this and using the same tech for years. Why is it so radical idea to use the head of electron beam welding unit on 5 axis bed. Also I'm sure most prototyping companies use the same idea but using lasers to build a prototype from layers of materials and shaped (as the layers build up) with a laser.

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