For most of us 3D printing technology is far more recent than it actually is as China National Space Administration (CNSA) has been sending astronauts into the earth’s orbit with 3D printed seats since the last ten years. A startling fact that makes NASA’s decision to make use of 3D printing in space travel a bit naïve as China has been doing it ever since they send their manned spaceflight in 2003. Every spacecraft they send into the Earth’s orbit was in fact loaded with 3D printed seats for customized protection to each of the astronaut on board to counter the stress from high-end G-forces at such high speeds.
The man responsible for incorporating 3D printing into spacecraft build is Professor Cui Guoqi, director of the Rapid Prototyping Research Center in Tianjin University who began working on the idea in 1998. These 3D printed seats having cradle-shaped design are made from 70mm of thick composite material and take around three months to come to life.
According to Professor Cui Guoqi
We collect physical data from astronaut candidates, like the measurements of their space suits, but the seats require much more data than the suits. This data will then form a 3D model in the computer. With more precise data, the seat will be better fitting and able to defuse more impact.
During launch and landing these specially designed seats… protect the astronauts, especially their backbones, from being hurt by the jolt during acceleration. Every seat [is] tested by the astronaut in person and undergo[s] adjustments to make it more precise.
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