Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has unveiled the first 3D printed object using only extraterrestrial materials.
The object was exhibited at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. 3D Systems, a company that manufactures 3D printers, collaborated with Planetary Resources in the object’s creation. The object is a nickel-iron sculpture representing a stylized, geometric spacecraft – the kind that might be used for prospecting or asteroid mining.
Planetary Resources states that the object is indicative of what could possibly be printed in a weightless environment. The nickel-iron sculpture was created with a fragment of prehistoric meteorite pulverized and fed into a 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 3D metal printer.
The powder comprising of nickel-iron and traces of cobalt – similar to refinery-grade steel – was spread out in thin layers and fused with the solid metal using a laser beam guided by a 3D file. The excess powder was subsequently removed to reveal the completed product.
Planetary Resources has mentioned that this is the first ever object printed with extraterrestrial raw materials. The meteorite used was from Campo del Cielo, situated in northwest Buenos Aires, Argentina. Campo del Cielo is a field with over 26 craters formed due to an impact about 4,700 years ago of a nickel-iron meteor weighing more than 100 tonnes.
Excerpts from Gizmag. Image courtesy of Planetary Resources