By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant


Think for a second. You do not have the tools you need to perform your job, but have limited materials and resources to make what you need to accomplish your tasks. What if the process could be simplified? What if you were in outer space? It just so happens that there is a solution.

The International Space Station (ISS) is employing the use of a combination 3D printer and recycler. Dubbed as a “Refabricator”, this device turns waste into reusable parts and tools. Due to the scarcity of resources in space the refabricator is able to recycle previously printed items, parts, and other on-board plastics into much needed tools for the ISS crew. This is key in reducing the station’s on-board waste and reduces the need to potentially jettison the waste into space.

This device is still in an experimental stage, but its implications for promoting an environmentally sustainable future have yet to reach their full potential. The idea that an all-in-one, on-demand, user friendly machine will some day be widely available here on Earth is a game changer.



How does this device promote a more sustainable environment?

What other materials/items here on Earth might be worth refabricating?

What industries do you think this technology could have the greatest impact on?