Stories about new 3D printing applications are becoming more and more commonplace. But one recent article felt somehow different. It didn't address a different application of 3D printing so much as 3D printing in a different context—space:
The International Space Station’s 3-D printer has manufactured the first 3-D printed object in space, paving the way to future long-term space expeditions.
"This first print is the initial step toward providing an on-demand machine shop capability away from Earth," said Niki Werkheiser, project manager for the International Space Station 3-D Printer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "The space station is the only laboratory where we can fully test this technology in space."
And what was that first 3D printed object? A faceplate of the extruder's casing, that is, a part for itself. What makes this (symbolically) a big deal is that the one 3D printer now in operation at the International Space Station, in addition to making replacement parts for itself, could ultimately also produce other 3D printers. But that's not all. As the CEO of one of the companies that collaborated on this project commented,
"The operation of the 3-D printer is a transformative moment in space development. We’ve built a machine that will provide us with research data needed to develop future 3-D printers for the International Space Station and beyond, revolutionizing space manufacturing. This may change how we approach getting replacement tools and parts to the space station crew, allowing them to be less reliant on supply missions from Earth."
But for the time being, self-repairing 3D printers and self-duplicating 3D printers are just a "blue sky" idea, and supply missions to the International Space Station are still a necessity.
As noted in a previous posting, the 3D printing literature is developing along two directions, the technology itself and applications of the technology. And so we ask, where would we class a work on 3D printing in space? And where would we class a work on the 3D printing of 3D printers?
The number for 3D printing in space is quite straightforward: 621.9880919, built with 621.988 Additive manufacturing equipment (which has three-dimensional printers in its class-here note), plus T1—091 Areas, regions, places in general, plus 9 (from T2—19 Space, following the add instruction at T1—091). In this example, the base number 621.988 is used to express the technology of 3D printing.
The number for the 3D printing of 3D printers is 621.988028, built with 621.988 Additive manufacturing equipment, plus T1—028 Auxiliary techniques and procedures; apparatus, equipment, materials. In this example, the base number 621.988 is used to express the application of the technology, following the scatter class-elsewhere note at 621.988: "Class additive manufacturing applications in a subject with the subject, plus notation T1—028 from Table 1."
And what about the 3D printing of 3D printers in space? Notation —028 is (much) higher than notation —091 in the preference table for Table 1. Standard subdivisions. Thus, the number for the 3D printing of 3D printers in space is the same as for the 3D printing of 3D printers, i.e., 621.988028.