Tethers Unlimited selected by NASA to Produce Recycling System for 3D Printers Plastic
We already published articles about NASA plans to use 3D printers aboard the International Space Station. In some cases it would be very useful since a lot of details used at the station could be easily 3d printed and there is no need to spend a lot of money and other resources for different components’ delivery.
Recently NASA has taken another step forward and selected Tethers Unlimited as a company for their “Small Business Innovation Research” or SBIR phase 1 award and gave the company $125,000 for a six month period to develop their new system. Tethers Unlimited proposes to create a system that would recycle left over plastic from 3D printers and allow to use it in those same 3D printers.
“By enabling reclamation of materials used by NASA’s on-orbit 3d printing facilities, this effort will minimize the requirements for resupplying and/or storing excess feedstock for orbital and deep space missions that utilize 3D printing for replacement parts, unforeseen needs, and planned sequential repurposing of components for progressive phases of a given mission,” Tethers Unlimited says in its proposal summary.
The company proposes to create a new machine to produce 3d printer filaments out of scrap ABS filament type. This machine will be using a process called Positrusion that is designed from the ground up for optimally producing small batches of filament directly out of arbitrarily shaped scraps of ABS plastic, while meeting requirements for operation on the station. It is planned that the machine could accept various ABS parts. Then it will dry and degas the input material before melting and extruding it through a die. The cross-sectional dimensions and feed-rate of the cooling extrudate will be tightly controlled in a continuous analog of closed-die molding.
Besides using of the new machine for NASA purposes it also can be used as a non-NASA commercial products. It will ideally match to professional users or private consumers and can be used for scraps recycling from many commercial 3D printers.