Robert Hillan, a student of sophomore engineering at the University of Alabama designed the Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, at the Future Engineers Space Tool Precision Challenge. This was printed by the crew members of the International Space Station in outer space. It is a multipurpose tool to operate various functions. This young and bright student’s greatest prize was seeing his design being printed live in space.
In a press release by NASA, Dean Bell, the founder, and director of the Future Engineers space tool, stated that they wanted to promote students to innovate objects and tools for use by astronauts in space. He further added that the students had the tough task of maintaining a balance of creating something unique and at the same time equally useful and functional. If this balance is achieved, a great space innovation can be made.
NASA used their AMF (additive manufacturing facility) tool to print Hillon’s design. It is a very sturdy printed that is well equipped to withstand rocket launches and space travels. The multipurpose tool is its first product.
The process of printing tools is quite a difficult one as the printer can succumb to the effect of microgravity in space. Also, it should be functioning well after the space launch, and be clean and tidy to perform functions in the ISS. These challenges of operating a 3D printer in space were stated by Brad Kohlenberg, an MIS business development Engineer.