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First ever object printed with 3D printer using ‘Alien’ material

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, engineers revealed an object printed with 3D printer using ‘alien’ material. Engineers stated that the technology could be used to build colonies on Mars using material from the Martian surface.

Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company and 3D Systems printed the object with a 3D printer that was loaded with an asteroid-material. The “ink” was created using the powder from the crushed asteroid. The material was sourced from a meteorite that crashed in Argentina from the Campo Del Cielo. The asteroid consisted mostly of nickel, iron and cobalt, similar to refined steel product. Engineers are hoping to use the same process to build colonies on Mars.

“What if we put a 3D printer into space and everything we printed with it, we got from space?” mused Chris Lewicki, CEO of Planetary Resources.

The new 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 Direct Metal Printer created a small model of a part of a spacecraft, resembling the Arkyd spacecraft that Planetary Resources is testing. Cathy Lewis, chief marketing officer at 3D systems said that the process of turning the meteorite into 3D printer was quite simple. The asteroid was cut into half, pulverized into a powder and fed into the 3D printer, she added.

Lewicki believes that if humans are ever going to explore space in any significant fashion beyond Earth, they’ll need to figure our a way to build and manufacture in space. The company aims to source materials from space and use to manufacture items.

Though the printer was able to print under Earth’s gravity, it should be tested in “microgravity.” In November, US President Obama signed a legislation, which allows commercial extraction of minerals from space. This means that Planetary Resources are free to take resources from the Martian surface or other celestial bodies.

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