Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have just 3d printed their first tool: a wrench.
Using a 3d printer which was designed by California based Made in Space, the team aboard the ISS needed a wrench that would be easy to hold onto in their zero gravity environment, so they designed and 3d printed one with a fastening clip.
"Astronauts and researchers can get creative and print items they need within the size constraints of the printer bed, which is 10 cm x 14 cm x 10 cm [3.9 by 5.5 by 3.9 inches]," a spokeswoman for Lowes told Space.com. Lowes partnered with Made in Space to create the Additive Manufacturing Facility aboard the ISS.
This is the first functional tool to be printed in space, following test prints which were done with another Made in Space printer sent to the ISS in late 2014.
Right after the AMF was installed aboard the ISS in April, the Made in Space Team wrote that the production facility run by astronauts "can be accessed by any Earth-bound customer for job-specific work, like a machine shop in space. Example use cases include a medical device company prototyping space-optimized designs, or a satellite manufacturer testing new deployable geometries, or creating tools for ISS crew members."
NASA has expressed a great deal of interest in 3d printing parts for space travel in order to decrease costs and provide astronauts with a system that can create fixes to problems on-demand.