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TOMSK, November 10. /TASS/. Russian researchers have developed the world’s first 3D printer capable of operating in the conditions of zero gravity and printing out the implements for cosmonauts. In 2018, it will be delivered for experiments to the International Space Station, Tomsk University of Technologies professor Sergei Psakhye told TASS on Thursday.
"In line with our plans, we will send it to the ISS at the end of 2018 but before that we must test all the operational procedures and instruct people on what is to be done," he said.
At the initial stage, a polymeric material will be used. It is a joint product of the Tomsk University of Technology, the Institute of the Physics of Strength and Material Engineering that reports to the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technologies, and Energiya missile engineering corporation.
Alexei Bideyev, the chief of the section for designing manned orbital complexes at Energiya corporation told reporters the new 3D printer may be highly instrumental during future durable space flights.
"At present, it’s highly promising as a space experiment," Bideyev said. "It’s simply interesting because no one has done anything of this kind in the past."
"Still this is very important for our future programs," he said. "Imagine an expedition flying towards Mars for about a year. The reserves of instruments, spare parts, or belongings they can take along with them are very limited."
"We pin big hopes on this new technology," Bideyev said, adding however that the prospective use of the unit in outer space required finalization of a multitude of details before the developers could send it on an orbital flight.
"While you can switch on a powerful extract ventilation unit when operating the printer on the Earth and install a system of filters to protect the personnel, we need to make sure the cosmonauts are properly protected when the same process takes place inside a manned spacecraft with a rather restricted volume," he said.
In the future, the developers hope for an industrial-scale operation of 3D printing units on manned space programs.
"What will be implemented as an orbital experiment in 2018 will become a scheduled system on the Russian lunar and Martian spacecraft after 2020," Bideyev said.