Europe plans 3D printing metal parts for space, including satellites

Proposed 3D printed Mars probe part
Proposed 3D printed Mars probe part

The European Space Agency wants to use 3D printing for metal parts, including entire satellites, and is bringing together 28 institutions to help them do it. Not only would there be no waste in creating the parts, they would be much lighter since they won’t need bolts and fasteners. This translates into huge fuel savings.

“Our ultimate aim is to print a satellite in a single piece. One chunk of metal, that doesn’t need to be welded or bolted,” said Jarvis.

“To do that would save 50% of the costs – millions of euros.”

Technical challenges certainly exist.  ESA is absolutely marshalling all possible help for this huge project. I bet they figure it out, and then the technology will spread to to the mainstream – just like when NASA invented solar photovoltaic panels.

There is a downside. If 3D printing metal parts becomes common, and it will, lots of jobs, like machinists, solderers, and assemblers, will vanish as surely as horse and buggy manufacturers did when the automobile replaced them.