Bordeaux, 11.09.2017. BAM believes that astronauts manufacturing their own tools or spare parts in space using 3D printing will become a reality. BAM, together with the Clausthal University of Technology, is conducting tests on powder-based additive manufacturing under microgravity conditions between 11 and 15 September. During the 30th Parabolic Flight Campaign of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the scientists will test how a 3D printer using powder as a source can be stabilised in zero gravity.
In the "Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity" project BAM and Clausthal University of Technology aim to manufacture components by applying layers of a flowable powder during printing. For this purpose a component is divided into thousands of virtual layers using software and then it is built up by the repeated application of powder layer by layer. The focus of the planned parabolic flight tests is on the application of powder layers as this is very difficult under zero gravity conditions. In order to stabilise the powder bed with the printed component without gravitation, scientists want to use an air gas flow which is sucked through the powder layers.
"3D printing has never been explored in weightlessness – BAM, DLR and Clausthal University of Technology are pioneers," explains Prof. Jens Günster, project manager and head of BAM’s Ceramic Processing and Biomaterials division. The aim of the research project is to expand and further develop individual manufacturing methods for components needed during a space mission. In addition, the process used is also of great interest for industrial applications on earth: "A higher packing density of the powder particles and an improved layer application of finer, non-flowable powders are two major advantages compared to conventional layer application methods," adds Günster.
Some of the methods used here have already been patented internationally: they are based on two patent families that have been jointly patented by BAM and Clausthal University of Technology within Germany and by BAM alone outside Germany.
Prof. Günster, who is also a professor in high-performance ceramics at the Clausthal University of Technology, leads a team including Dr. Andrea Zocca and BAM Ph.D. students Jörg Lüchtenborg and Pedro Lima, Clausthal University of Technology Ph.D. student Thomas Mühler, and DLR Ph.D. student Marc Sparenberg. This is another milestone in the successful collaboration between BAM, DLR and Clausthal University of Technology following the "Self-assembled Multifunctional Structures for Adaptive High-Performance Lightweight Construction" Ph.D. programme, which was approved last year.
For more information about the project "Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity" and the parabolic flight tests of BAM and Clausthal University of Technology visit www.bam.de/parabelflug.
BAM and DLR will report live on the parabolic flights from the Bordeaux site and on the tests under hashtag #BAMzeroG and #DLRparabelflug during the flight week from 11th to 15th of September. Please also visit Twitter and YouTube!
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About Clausthal University of Technology
Locally based, globally valued – this is the Clausthal University of Technology. Teaching and research are carried out in the fields of energy and raw materials, natural sciences and materials sciences, economics, mathematics, computer science, mechanical engineering and process engineering. We aim to connect natural science, engineering and economics within application-oriented research. The university is organised in three innovative centres: the Lower Saxony Energy Research Centre, the Clausthal Centre for Materials Sciences and the Simulation Science Centre.