The Story Behind the First 3D Printed Wrench in Space [Video]

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made in space wrenchYou may recall that late last year, a breakthrough in manufacturing occurred a few hundred miles above the Earth.

After having sent a 3D printer to the International Space Station and printed its first object, a file for a functional ratchet wrench was emailed to a laptop and printed, marking the first time an object designed on Earth was digitally transmitted into space and manufactured.

Though the news of the first 3D printed wrench in space was big in the media, the behind-the-scenes story wherein an engineer at Made in Space, a startup born at Singularity University Labs, rapidly designed the tool and quickly sought approval from NASA has not been told.

In this clip, Jason Dunn, who is the company's cofounder and Chief Technology Officer, shares the details behind what is soon to become commonplace: digital transmission of designs for offworld manufacturing.

Want your own version of the wrench and have access to a 3D printer? NASA has made the file available for download.

If you want to learn more about Made in Space, check out this clip from a Startup Showcase event at Singularity University's Executive Program in 2013 to see the company's plans for the future.


[photo credits: NASA, Made in Space]

David J. Hill

Managing Director, Digital Media at Singularity University
I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

Discussion — 2 Responses

  • Frank Triana June 25, 2015 on 4:12 pm

    Is the work envelope of the 3D printer large enough to replace and PVR or HRS solar array panel? The spare is awaiting down here on planet earth. Then if you allow that wrench to get away from you, since a smart man would have had a string attaching to the user, will it become space trash flying at hyper-velocity? Then what is the game changer difference that stereo-lithography, which was around before Y2K and not utilized in the MIR, and this 3D mania, which is a rather expensive hobby? I also saw a Smart Phone ap which would generate the code after a few pictures, thereby a bust of someone, since the one foot by one foot by 18 inches is the largest 3D printer work envelope at Nebraska Furniture Mart, and that is the their best model too. Lastly, the software, is that SOLIDWORKS or ASCII files/EIA/ISO?

  • bks June 28, 2015 on 8:07 am

    http://gawker.com/spacex-rocket-explodes-shortly-after-liftoff-1714495033

    Grief counseling will be available in the Student Union at Singularity U.

    –bks