The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has turned to AON3D’s 3D printing solutions to develop biomedical R&D equipment in time for launch to the International Space Station (ISS).
Specifically, CSA employed the AON3D M2+ 3D printer to produce the centrifuges needed for blood sample preparation as part of the International Space Station’s study of the effects of life in space on the human body.Adopting the system is said to have enabled the agency to reduce lead times for parts from weeks to just 16 hours, while facilitating design iterations by greatly simplifying their production.
Launched in June 2021, the AON M2+ is the flagship system of Montreal-based fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer manufacturer AON3D.The machine has an Independent Dual Extrusion (IDEX) architecture, which means that the unit’s printheads share the same Y-axis, but move independently on the X-axis.In practice, this allows the 3D printer to produce two parts at a time, effectively doubling its output.
Measuring 450 x 450 x 640 mm, the AON M2+ also features one of the largest sub-$100,000 actively heated molding chambers in the industry with a maximum nozzle temperature of 500°C.As a result, the Open Material Machine is compatible with hundreds of high-performance filaments, including filaments with higher strength-to-weight ratios than aluminum, ESD-safe thermoplastics, and biocompatible polymers.
Since the machine’s release, AON3D has promised to continue to provide users with firmware updates for the AON M2+ 3D printer and three new materials.The upgrade, due later this year, will bring mirror and copy mode capabilities to the system.At the same time, the company’s material release added Zymergen Z2 polyimide, VICTREX AM 200 LMPAEK and Braskem FL900PP-CF compatibility.
Due to its high temperature 3D printing capabilities, the AON M2+ has previously been adopted in aerospace applications by companies such as Astrobotic.Using AON3D’s technology, the company has developed 3D-printed Peregrine Lander parts with materials that prevent “outgassing” or the formation of condensation in the cold vacuum of space, a problem that can lead to weak parts and failure.
Engineers at the CSA, tasked with producing a flyable centrifuge for the International Space Station, initially considered building it through conventional techniques.However, the team soon realized that using CNC machining or injection molding to develop the part would incur high prototyping costs and extend its lead time beyond its release window.
Another aspect that engineers must consider is NASA’s outgassing standards.In order to maintain compliance with these safety specifications (marked by the CSA as “Primary Design Considerations”), material compatibility is critical.As a result, the agency decided that conventional technology was not up to the task and turned to the M2+ system and Stratasys’ ULTEM 9085 resin.
In particular, the latter was chosen for its flame retardancy, non-toxicity, and low total mass loss (TML) when used in a vacuum, which enables it to meet NASA’s stringent specifications.Once the CSA identified the ideal machine for the job, it was deployed to create a centrifuge for the separation of blood on the ISS into red or white blood cells, platelets and plasma.
Using this part, scientists at the International Space Station have now begun experiments on blood samples from astronauts to develop diagnostic information about the effects of long-term exposure to low-Earth orbit (LEO) conditions.The success of the project is said to have inspired other 3D printing programs on the space station, including the NSERC-backed “Project PEEKbot.”The plan will reportedly see the development of a rover capable of withstanding moonlit night temperatures as low as -250°C.
In recent years, the International Space Station has become a hub for advanced 3D printing research, with the facility hosting various zero-gravity R&D projects.Last August, a Redwire study of lunar regolith 3D printing was announced, in which the company assessed the technology’s potential to build a lunar base on the International Space Station.
In the past, the station’s facilities have also benefited from upgrades using additive manufacturing.For example, in February 2020, the International Space Station 3D Bioprinting Facility was equipped with a ceramic manifold, 3D printed by Lithoz and Techshot, designed to increase the amount of usable tissue grown inside its onboard bioreactor.
Likewise, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) has previously used Stratasys’ technology to develop a 3D-printed Mini-EUSO telescope.The device now features a 3D-printed mechanical structure that can be used to analyze ultraviolet radiation from the International Space Station and help scientists better understand cosmic rays.
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Paul is a history and journalism graduate with a passion for finding the latest tech news scoops.
Post time: Aug-04-2022