NASA engineer is building 3D printed space cameras
NASA and its engineers have made good use of the 3D printing technology in the past. Moving further ahead, now an engineer from NASA is working on world’s first 3D printed space cameras. All set to be complete by the end of September, it is the first attempt by anyone to build an entire instrument with 3D printing according to the NASA aerospace engineer Jason Budinoff. Funded by Goddard’s Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program, the project by Budinoff involves construction of two 3D printed devices: 50-millimeter (2-inch) camera and a 350-millimeter (14-inch) dual-channel telescope.
The outer tube, baffles and optical mounts of the 2-inch camera are all printed as a single structure and the instrument is designed for CubeSat, a miniature satellite for space research. Equipped with conventionally fabricated mirrors and glass lenses, the 3d printed space camera will face vibration and thermal-vacuum testing next year. The other instrument in the manufacturing process is a 14-inch dual-channel telescope which will be of size equivalent to a typical space telescope.
There are no plans of flying these instruments to the space yet explains Budinoff, as for now it is just a pathfinder. Hundreds of pieces are used to build space telescopes and the process is complex and costly. 3D printing will reduce the number of parts required for manufacturing process and also the pain-staking method for building them. According to Budinoff, with 3D printed technology camera’s assembly will take only three months to complete with a much less expense and ready for space-qualification testing.