Why build something from scratch when you can print it out? That is a very good and valid question, but will quality be there when something complex is printed instead of pieced together in a painstaking manner? NASA intends to look into the possibility of printing out their very own spacecraft in order to achieve a supply of cheap robotic spacecraft, which might tip the favor for the case of affordable space exploration, even for the masses. Printable electronics are not new and have been common for quite some time already, where inkjet printers rely on specialty liquids in order to print electrically conductive trails, transistors, circuits and perhaps even photovoltaic cells onto a material. How about translating this idea to printing out sheets that have been embedded the necessary electronics required in a robotic spacecraft?
Lead researcher Kendra Short, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says, “The crazy part about it is there’s no structure. The entire spacecraft is basically a sheet a paper. That’s the Holy Grail. That’s what we’d hope to do in about 10 years from now.” Good luck to NASA, as it does seem to be quite a long and rocky road ahead despite the small steps made today.
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