Mouser Electronics had collaborated with engineer Grant Imhara to launch a contest to design 3D printed tools for the aerospace station (ISS). This project was sponsored by Intel, Made in Space, and many others. Designers and experts were invited from all walks of life to showcase their talent and try their luck.
After a month of the contest deadline being over, the winners are announced. About 250 3D printed entries found their way into the contest. Toys, appliances, everyday utility items, to scientific instruments, all were designed and modeled. The panel of judges included eminent people including Imhara and astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Andy Filo was the winner who designed a 3D printed satellite launcher. These are minute femtosats, or microchips that are launched into space to collect data on such things as changes in the atmosphere, magnetosphere, or to find cosmic rays. The problems usually faced are how to get these ‘femto satellites,’ which are about the size of a cracker, into space.
His innovation was a small 3D printed device that functions as a “mothership” to launch the tiny satellites into space. The device consists of a small box with specially designed compartments, each of which can house a satellite. The satellites’ antennae function as springs and are released by the removing a pin, which is initially inserted to keep everything intact and under pressure. When the pin is removed, the femtosats are released into space.
This satellite launcher can even control the direction and location of the satellite. And as Imhara stated that deploying the satellite at the correct location was of utmost importance, this device is incredible. He further said that the compact box is 3D printed and makes assembling easy and quick.
Two other 3D printable designs won the runners-up for the ISS 3D printing challenge. One is a 3D printed device used to keep things in place in a zero-gravity environment, and a pair of 3D printed, multi-use “space tongs” which are Imahara’s personal favorites.
Filo’s innovative 3D printed satellite launcher will even be 3D printed aboard the ISS.