China develops first space 3D printer

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China has successfully developed its first space 3D printer that can help the country build a space station by 2020 and facilitate its operation and maintenance thereafter.

Scientists with both the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Chongqing Institute of Green and Intelligent Technology and the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilisation are behind the two-year-long project.

Duan Xuanming, head of 3D printing research centre under CAS’s Chongqing Institute, said the printer has finished 93 zero gravity flying tests in France.

The printer can produce bigger space parts than the one sent to the International Space Station by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) late last month, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The device could help China build a space station in 2020 and facilitate its operation and maintenance thereafter, Duan said.
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In-orbit, 3D printing is effective in helping with space station repair and maintenance and is essential for future deep space exploration, Duan said.

It can cut the operation cost of space stations and reduce their dependence on ground supplies, he added.