January 25, 2022

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Space Foundry successfully uses 3D plasma jet printing technology in weightlessness

Space Foundry has successfully tested 3D plasma jet printing technology in microgravity (weightlessness). They used it to print WiFi antennas and interlocking electrodes, among other things. We summarize the basics about plasma jet printing from Space Foundry.

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company space foundry I was able to successfully demonstrate the 3D printing technology of plasma jet technology in microgravity in parabolic flight. In a custom Boeing 727-200 operated by Zero Gravity, the Space Foundry team has successfully 3D-printed silver stripes, pads, interlocking electrodes and a WLAN antenna in zero gravity. Space Foundry was founded by Dr. Ram Prasad Ganderaman, a former contractor for the NASA Ames Research Center, and Dr. Dennis Nordlund, founded by Stanford University, sells equipment and printing services.

Details of plasma jet printing

3D plasma plane
Space Foundry has been able to successfully print in microgravity using a 3D plasma jet printer (pictured) (Photo © Space Foundry).

Plasma jet printing for aerospace applications is part of On-Demand Electronics Manufacturing (ODME) – Projects NASA as part of a development program. The SBIR Phase II-E Award, funded by NASA’s SBIR and NASA Flight Opportunities Program, supports the flights.

The interaction between aerosol ink and plasma forms the basis of plasma jet printing technology. The electronic composition of ink materials and the oxidation state of metals can be controlled by precise control of the plasma generation process. The printed body is dry, so no processing is required. This method is very attractive to customers in the aerospace and military sectors who are interested in direct-to-write printing on large, curved and uneven surfaces.

In addition to metals, organic materials such as bio-inks can also be printed

Plasma jet printing is important to NASA because the electronic structure of the material can be customized without additional subsequent processing. In addition, the fluid flow is controlled by an electromagnetic field and is therefore independent of gravity. The plasma jet printer is a multi-sided printing platform that can print various materials such as metals, electrical insulators, organic materials and bio-inks.

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The now-printed weightless in-flight interlocking electrodes and antennas are suitable for many application areas, such as power gathering, inventory control, power distribution, bio- and gaseous sensor manufacturing and more.

A beam directed toward the substrate
Plasma jet printing can adapt the electronic structure of materials without additional post-processing (pictured: substrate-oriented plasma jets) (Photo © Space Foundry).

Video: 3D printing in microgravity

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