Meet the teams: Grain Power 3D Printing

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ESA / Education / Fly Your Thesis!

The Grain Power team, abbreviation of Gravity Independent Powder-based Additive Manufacturing, aims to demonstrate workability of a novel additive manufacturing process working from powder independently of gravity.

Gravity Independent Powder-based Additive Manufacturing

University Technische Hochschule (TH) Cologne
Endorsing professor Professor Doctor Andreas Meyer, Ruhr-Universität Bochum & Professor Doctor Mohieddine Jelali, Technische Hochschule (TH) Cologne
Team Olfa Lopez, Felix Kuthe, Tolga Renan Bastürk, Merve Seckin-Kryger, Abeba Birhane
Team members
Team members

Space exploration missions are severely constrained by payload capacity. A payload mass should ideally serve multiple purposes over time. Making 3D-printing available for space applications would allow objects designed on Earth to be materialized directly in space. By making on-demand production of tools and replacement parts possible, a microgravity-adapted additive manufacturing process would enable drastic increase in self-sufficiency of manned and unmanned missions.

We propose to demonstrate the feasibility of powder-based additive manufacturing in microgravity by flying a prototype powder-based 3D-printer working independently of gravity.

Developing a powder-based technique for space application provides a more versatile technology, adaptable to multiple raw materials and of higher precision than any filament-based process. To allow for easy recycling, the process works with a single base material, without the need for a binder or processing fluids, hence also preserving mechanical properties. All commercially available powder-based processes crucially rely on gravity for powder deposition. The technique proposed emancipates from gravitational force, and from the need for a highly flowable powder.

As the powder rheology changes in microgravity, a crucial step is the optimization of the process parameters for low gravity, aiming to create in-flight 3D-printed samples for further material characterization and simultaneously recording granular flow in varying gravity.

Team logo
Team logo

The scientific work throughout the progress of this project shall be observed and analysed by a cognitive science student embedded in the team, studying the challenge posed by the development of machinery in a demanding and unusual environment, and the evolution of the team and the project with the eye of a sociologist.

The cross-disciplinary team spearheading this project is composed of five members: Olfa Lopez, material scientist with French-Spanish citizenships doing her PhD at the Institute for Material Physics for Space (Cologne, Germany) for the Aachen university (RWTH, Germany); Felix Kuthe and Tolga Bastürk, German citizens doing their Master in the Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Automotive Systems and Production; Merve Secking-Kryger, German granular scientist from the Institute for Material Physics for Space in Cologne, preparing her PhD in Physics at the Cologne University; finally, Abeba Birhane, Irish citizen, former physics student now doing her PhD in Cognitive Science at the University College of Dublin in the School of Computer Science, will be the sociologist of the team.

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