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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday December 21 2014, @02:10PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the spooky-action-at-a-distance dept.

Sarah LeTrent reports at CNN that NASA just "emailed" the design of a socket wrench to astronauts so that they could print it out in the orbit. The ratcheting socket wrench was the first "uplink tool" printed in space, according to Grant Lowery, marketing and communications manager for Made In Space, which built the printer in partnership with NASA. The tool was designed on the ground, "emailed" to the space station and then manufactured where it took four hours to print out the finished product. The space agency hopes to one day use the technology to make parts for broken equipment in space and long-term missions would benefit greatly from onboard manufacturing capabilities. "I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission," recalls NASA astronaut TJ Creamer, who flew aboard the space station during Expedition 22/23 from December 2009 to June 2010. "I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one. Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it."

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday December 21 2014, @02:50PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 21 2014, @02:50PM (#128021)

    Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it.

    Some people don't want to wait for the supply ship from Cape Canaveral, I don't want to wait for the container ship from China.

    In the long run this is likely to be the most disruptive effect of "on demand".

    If I need a shelf bracket and and print one more conveniently at home, that's one thing, but what happens when its more convenient for Home Depot to use some super amazing printer to squirt one out on demand every time one is bought.... Imagine the financial results if hardware stores and whatever book sellers are left start making stuff on demand as sold... A bookstore never has more than one copy on hand other than new releases, that kind of thing.

    Also impacts product tying, good luck buying a rook from a chess set if you lost it. All the pieces in a package, or nothing. But with a printer, you just print one. Dude doesn't need a flight shipping tested carrying case to send up an entire tool-set, he just needs one socket.

    Also from my experience with Chinese tools, a plastic socket is probably more durable than a Chinese pseudo-steel socket, so at least for home use, durability of printed products isn't an issue.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @04:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @04:40PM (#128039)

      "a plastic socket is probably more durable than a Chinese pseudo-steel socket"

      No, it's not.

      Try your plastic socket on pretty much any firmly attached metal nut and see how long before you
      have a plastic cylinder.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @04:56PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @04:56PM (#128043)

        Can you explain why my "stainless steel" cutlery that was made in China started to rust?

        • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @05:02PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @05:02PM (#128044)

          It's not plastic?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @05:34PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @05:34PM (#128052)

            I didn't know that Chinese plastic was capable of rusting.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:48PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:48PM (#128132)

          Can you explain why my "stainless steel" cutlery that was made in China started to rust?

          Sure -- most likely it is the wrong alloy for the specific corrosive conditions, for example not enough Chrome and/or Nickel. Nice brief summary here, http://www.portlandbolt.com/faqs/18-8-304-and-316-stainless-steel/ [portlandbolt.com] Note--Chrome and Nickel cost more than Iron (by a lot!), so I'm guessing someone cheated at the steel mill.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:14PM (#128123)

        Anyone have experience with how the stronger-than-steel plastics hold up under these conditions?

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 2) by crutchy on Monday December 22 2014, @12:34AM

          by crutchy (179) on Monday December 22 2014, @12:34AM (#128173) Homepage Journal

          utensils are also being manufactured from lexan, which is the stuff used to make the helmets worn by astronauts on the moon
          not sure if it's printable now, but might be possible in future

          also, metal alloy parts are already being 3d printed
          not hard to imagine eventually printing steel components since welding is conceptually very similar. the energy requirements might not be much more either given the huge amount of energy required to smelt/recycle steel at a mill using electric arc furnaces

          • (Score: 2) by etherscythe on Wednesday December 24 2014, @07:10PM

            by etherscythe (937) on Wednesday December 24 2014, @07:10PM (#128972) Journal

            Polycarbonate material (Lexan among other trade names applies) is a thermoplastic substance, so in theory quite possibly so. Given how tough it is though, I'd think it would be quite difficult to clean up after. You'd also be destroying the main benefit of it, which is the inherent strength (you get something like 30% of regular injection-molded part strength out of your average Reprap) unless you did something a bit more... well, expensive. And then you're just another manufacturer, I guess. If you have particular custom in-house needs I suppose it might work out though.

            --
            "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"
      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Monday December 22 2014, @09:54AM

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Monday December 22 2014, @09:54AM (#128263) Journal

        But if you can easily print a replacement (maybe using the broken old one, melted down and fed back into the printer, as raw materials) then why would you care if the thing is only good a for a few uses?

        It would save a ton of space: For people who tinker and fix things all the time then it makes sense to keep a big collection of high quality metal tools in your man-shed. For those of us who only pull the toolbox out of the loft a few times a year, printable, recyclable tools would be a blessing.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @03:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @03:14PM (#128028)

    I don't know about you, but anyone with the name TJ Creamer sounds like a real cool dude to me.

    How did his ancestors get that name? Was one of them well-known for providing bukkake expertise in some medieval English village?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @03:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @03:55PM (#128034)

      No, but they fondled some cows

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @02:38PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @02:38PM (#128324)

      Actually, it sounds like one of those porn names like Miles Long.

  • (Score: 2) by dlb on Sunday December 21 2014, @06:56PM

    by dlb (4790) on Sunday December 21 2014, @06:56PM (#128079)
    Used to be a (lame) joke asking someone if they could email you that wrench.
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Aiwendil on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:27PM

    by Aiwendil (531) on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:27PM (#128113) Journal

    I've seen this snippet on multiple outlets but none of them mentions the important thing..

    How well did the socket wrench work? This is the important stuff really, if the wrench breaks in the middle of the first job it is useless, if it holds out for the couple of months it takes for a proper one to arrive it is "good enough", if it will last for a couple of year it is a solution.

  • (Score: 1) by Anonoob on Monday December 22 2014, @11:35AM

    by Anonoob (335) on Monday December 22 2014, @11:35AM (#128286)

    I just want to know how big the wrench had to be on Earth before they zapped it into space?