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China produces first space-based 3D printing machine

Updated: Dec 8,2014 1:17 PM     Xinhua

SHANGHAI — Scientists have produced a 3D printing machine, the first of its kind in China, which astronauts will be able to use while on space missions, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) on Dec 8.

The machine is capable of printing optical lens brackets used in spaceborne equipment, complicated components used in nuclear power testing equipment, impellers used in aircraft research and special-shaped gears used in automobile engines, said Wang Lianfeng, a senior engineer with CASTC Shanghai’s research arm.

The machine, which uses both long-wave fiber and short-wave carbon dioxide lasers, can produce items smaller than 250 millimeters.

The machine, which looks like a gray cabinet, can fashion items out of stainless steel, titanium alloy and nickel-based superalloy.

“The products made will have to be tested thoroughly, due to the strict quality requirements of aerospace products,” said Wang, adding that the prospect for 3D printing is promising.

Additive manufacturing, which 3D printing is also known as, is the processes in which three-dimensional objects are made through the layering of material. It is advancing rapidly and is increasingly used for industrial purposes.

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