The Value of Microgravity for Manufacturing – A Quick Overview

Microgravity, or the condition of near weightlessness, has long been a topic of fascination for scientists and the general public alike. In recent years, however, the value of microgravity for manufacturing has come to the forefront as a potential game changer in the world of production and manufacturing. In this article, we will identify the unique capabilities that microgravity offers for manufacturing. We will also review the current state of microgravity manufacturing and its future potential.

Microgravity Characteristics

Source: NASA

Microgravity removes convection, sedimentation, and buoyancy that warp and disrupt physical and chemical processes on Earth in normal gravity.

In microgravity, diffusion is the dominant process, a gentler mixing that enables more perfect, uniform, and precise structures at the level of individual molecules and groups of atoms, leading to unique alloys and formulations.

Microgravity also allows surface tension features to dominate for more precise adhesion, contact, and interaction between layers of similar and dissimilar constituents, yielding unique, more complex, and higher quality products.

Current Status

The International Space Station (ISS) has been used to conduct a number of microgravity manufacturing experiments. These experiments have focused on using 3D printing to manufacture various items in microgravity. Other experiments have involved the growth of cells and tissue cultures in microgravity, which has potential applications in the fields of medicine and biology.

Several 3D printers have been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) to be used for microgravity manufacturing experiments. These printers have been used to print tools and spare parts for the space station, as well as scientific equipment and experiment hardware. In addition to these practical items, the ISS crew has also used 3D printers to print more personal items, such as custom-designed pizzas and plastic figurines.

Applications That May Benefit From Microgravity

The microgravity environment is expected to provide benefits to the following manufacturing activities:

Advanced Materials

  • Metal Organic Frameworks
  • Metamaterials
  • Ceramics
  • Container-less Processing
  • Exotic Glasses & Fibers
  • Alloys

Crystal Production

  • Inorganic Crystals
  • Large Molecule Crystals
  • Small Molecule Crystals
  • Uniform Crystals
  • Industrial Crystals

Thin Film Deposition

  • Artificial Retinas
  • Semiconductors
  • Graphene

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

  • Disease Modelling
  • Tissue Chips
  • Organoids
  • Stem Cells
  • 3D Bio-fabrication

Source: NASA