The European Space Agency (ESA) has recently announced that it will be diving headlong into the quest for 3D printers capable of printing in zero gravity. Dubbed the largest collaborative 3D printing initiative in existence, the project is called AMAZE, and if successful it certainly will.
AMAZE is short for "Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste and Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products," which is a bit of a long and meandering title. That's fairly appropriate, seeing as AMAZE isn't really your straightforward 3D printing project. Together with 28 industrial partners, the ESA is aiming to create both a small, metal-printing 3D printer for use in the ISS and other future spacecraft as well as a highly-complex ground-based 3D printer capable of churning out whole satellites.
To achieve these goals, the ESA is setting up four new 3D printing factories across Europe. These factories will be tasked with standardizing the process of printing with metals. Based in Italy, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom, they will be capable of printing multiple metals and alloys, including such rare materials as tungsten, platinum and niobium.
It seems that the ESA is keen on setting itself some seriously lofty goals when it comes to 3D printing. ESA spokesman and head of new materials and energy research David Jarvis recently stated that, in addition to the rest of its lofty goals, project AMAZE will aim to "build the best quality metal products ever made."
With NASA already testing out its own 3D printed rocket engine parts, the future of the AMAZE program looks daunting to say the least. That being said, if they succeed, the ESA could well revolutionize manufacturing worldwide, provide one-step satellite printing and offer astronauts a whole new world of tools, easily printed anywhere the future of space travel may take them.