PerspectiveCHEMICAL ENGINEERING

The art of manufacturing molecules

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 273-274
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4543

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  • Future utilization of 3D printers in space

    Christian H. Hornung described the use of 3D printers in chemistry (1). There are merits of personalized product, fresh utilization by on-site production and enhancement of logistics flexibility, as written in his article. Meanwhile, the article pointed out that it is difficult to handle dangerous materials.
    Here, I discuss utilization of 3D printer in space in the future. Today, 3D printers can produce chemical goods, foods, clothing and buildings. Regarding printing out buildings, material strength should be verified in large buildings and buildings in areas where disasters occur frequently. Although the buildings are now low for safety, it should be confirmed that materials built by 3D printers would have enough strengths, for example, without cracks between layers.
    Then, when 3D printers are used in space, the difference in gravity with the earth will affect the formation of materials. This was expected to form homogeneous materials under microgravity and has been studied in the fields of space utilization (2). Even heat transfers of heat pipes are affected by microgravity (3). Although convenience by digitization can be expected, many physical and chemical experiments and updates of mechanical design manual are necessary before daily using 3D printers in space. As the United States and China revive space research and development (4, 5), researchers have chances to address the utilization of 3D printers in space in addition to remote manufacturing on the...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.