Workers do not normally think of photocopying as a task that is particularly out of this world.  However, astronauts aboard the International Space Station may disagree.

Astronauts on board the ISS are making spare parts on a three-dimensional printer sent from Earth.  The printer was installed on the space station on November 17, 2014 and the crew began testing the printer almost immediately.

The printer is part of an experiment on board the ISS.   A description on NASA's "ISS Science for Everyone" page it is described as follows:

"The 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration (3D Printing In Zero-G) experiment demonstrates that a 3D printer works normally in space. In general, a 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create 3 dimensional objects. Testing a 3D printer using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, a critical enabling component for deep-space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing."

On Monday the ground crew sent the command for the printer to print its very first spare part.  Ironically the very first part printed was a replacement part for the printer itself.


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