Studies into Additive Manufacturing for In-Space Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing (AM) for space exploration has become a growing opportunity as long-range space missions evolve. In partnership with the National Space Grant Foundation and NASA, students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee participated in the 2014-15 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge, with participants tasked with developing new AM solutions that would be recyclable with minimal loss in mechanical properties. The teams investigated materials, characterization, testing, modeling, and tool development, including the ability to employ reusable carbon-fiber tension ties. The tools developed show that it is possible to employ thermoplastic polymer materials fabricated using AM together with reusable and flexible high-performance carbon-fiber-based composite ties. The AM-printed part is completely recyclable. The carbon-fiber composite ties are repurposed into new structural configurations without loss in properties.