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
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]