The so-called ‘Asteroid Mining’ company shaped a meteorite found in Argentina through the 3D Systems metal printer.
Planetary Resources is a company which considers space objects such as asteroids valuable. The so-called ‘Asteroid Mining’ company believes asteroids in space are loaded with advantageous resources. Space is filled with infinite rocks floating through filled with valuable minerals.
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Earth will eventually run out of minerals and space seems like a great resource to take advantage of. However the idea of mining, processing and building alien metals seems massive and daunting.
Planetary Resources has shown the task may not be as difficult as perceived. The company has been successful in building with metals not from Earth. Planetary Resources built a 3D printed object from an alien meteorite.
The object does not belong to this earth and was a meteorite that landed in Argentina in prehistoric times. The material was processed and went through the new 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 direct metal printer.
The resulting product is a tiny 3D-printed model of a part of a spacecraft. The model resembles the spacecraft Arkyd that Planetary Resources is testing for space travels in the future. The tiny model will be displayed at the CES booth of Planetary Resources.
The fact that Planetary Resources and 3D Systems have successfully printed a model using meteorite material is a huge step. The production of the model has taken the company one step forward towards its vision of space mining.
Chris Lewicki is the CEO of Planetary Resources. According to Lewicki, if humans ever explore space then they need to figure out how to build and manufacture in space. Lewicki shared instead of building and manufacturing on earth, they can take 3D printers into space.
Not to be forgotten is the fact the process has been successful only once and on a very small object. For actual space mining Planetary Resources would have to be extremely good at mining.
They will have to come up with large scale methods to mine raw materials from space. The materials would then need to be converted into a state usable for manufacturing.
Lewicki shared the tech is available to convert the iron meteorite seen in museums into manufactural material. Metal printers using high energy laser print the materials into usable material. Lewicki further stressed there is billions and billions of tons of meteorite in space.
For the process of transforming a meteorite rock into manufactural material a special process is used. Transforming a chunk of space rock into something you can feed into a 3D printer is a pretty odd process.
Planetary Resources subjects the meteorite to a plasma. The plasma essentially transforms the meteorite into a cloud. The cloud is then able to ‘precipitate’ metallic powder.
The metal powder is then extracted via a vacuum system. Planetary Resources claims the process is like condensing rain out of clouds. Instead of rain water they are collecting titanium pellets.
Another possible method of extraction is the use of magnets. Planetary Resources did admit the processes are still crude for space mining at this point.
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Although it may be many years before Planetary Resources successfully mines at zero gravity in space. The company has all the time in the world to work towards their technology.