After two years in development, Project
MELT (Manufacturing of Experimental Layer Technology) has
resurfaced with a prototype microgravity 3D printer.
Made for the European Space
Agency (ESA) the Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM)
breadboard machine is designed to 3D print high performance
polymers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other
The collaborative behind Project MELT
ESA’s Project MELT has been undertaken by a consortium of 5
European technology companies.
A member of the ESA Brokers network, the Portugese non-profit
organization Instituto Pedro
Nunes is working to establish a connection between the
sci-tech development environment of the ALM machine, and its
potential commercial applications.
is contributing its structural, thermal and mechanical
engineering expertise to the project from a foundation of more
than 30 years in the business.
consortium. Photo via BEEVERYCREATIVE
Bringing gravity to the collective, OHB System AG adds its
specialism as a developer of low-orbiting and
Active Space, is
the fourth member of project MELT offering “bespoke
electro-mechanical systems for extreme harsh environments”
qualified for high gravity and high temperature radiation
The final member of the team is Portuguese 3D printing
technology startup BEEVERYCREATIVE, that has
been responsible for the overall design and development of the
3D printer prototype and its operating software.
Microgravity Additive Layer Manufacturing machine
At present, exact specifications of ESA’s ALM is unknown. Out
of necessity, it is compact and robust by design. Materials
that can be 3D printed in the process are defined as
“engineering polymers with high end mechanical and thermal
properties.” From the photos, sample objects appear to be made
from a PEEK or PEKK like filament, and the machine clearly uses
FDM/FFF based technology 9 see spool in section on left and
FDM/FFF is also BEEVERYCREATIVE’s expertise, as evident in its
BEETHEFIRST 3D printer.
ESA’s Microgravity 3D
printer. Photo via BEEVERYCREATIVE
Made in Space
The AMF has a print volume of 140 x 100 x 100 mm (L x W x H)
and works on an open materials platform. The grade of materials
available for this system are “space-friendly” and include ABS,
Green PE and PEI/PC.
3D printing at ESA
At ESA, a great deal of investment has been made into companies
using 3D printing to build next generation rocket engines.
With the UK Space Agency, ESA has also contributed
million (approx. $85.1 million) to SABRE engine
Also in development is ESA’s 3D
printed Lunar and Martian regolith project.
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Featured image shows ESA’s Microgravity 3D printer.
Photo via BEEVERYCREATIVE