Polyethylene made from sugarcane is now being 3D-printed in Outer Space.
Braskem developed a special grade that can be produced in a zero-gravity 3D printer developed by U.S.-based Made In Space for use on the International Space Station. It will fabricate tools and spare parts based on digital patterns transmitted from Earth.
The first bioplastic part 3D printed on the Space Station was a pipe connector for a vegetable irrigation system.
Polyethylene made from sugarcane ethanol was chosen for the project because of its flexibility, chemical resistance and recyclability, and because it is made from a renewable resource.
“The ability to print parts and tools in 3D on demand increases the reliability and safety of space missions. This partnership with Braskem is fundamental for diversifying the raw materials used by the Additive Manufacturing Facility and for making this technology more robust and versatile,” said Andrew Rush, CEO of Made In Space. The original plastic used by the space printer, which was launched two years ago, was ABS.
The equipment’s printing bed is made of Braskem’s ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE), which is said to provide increased tack for printing green polyethylene and offers superior abrasion and impact resistance.
Made In Space was founded in 2010 as the world’s first space manufacturing company,