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For a while now I have been able to ignore the excitement associated to 3D printing.

I just didn’t get it.

I had no idea what all the fuss was about. If I wanted a shitty plastic model of the Eiffel Tower I could just buy one from the web for about a quid – no need to invest in a £1,000 bit of kit, right?

To the best of my knowledge the market for 3D printing was research (making them better for medical advances etc. and totally self-fulfilling for the manufacturers, looking for a billion dollar idea), gizmo loving nerds who could 3D print statues of Gollum to their hearts content and nasty bastards looking for ways to print weapons that can fool airport security.

Until now!

The ISS consortium needed a spare part up on the station, a wrench in fact. A wrench. Something that costs £10 in a hardware store (although a space wrench probably costs £50,000) was needed to complete some important maintenance but nobody had one in their back pocket. Bummer.

The way resupply works for ISS is simple. Items are identified and then manifested for delivery at the next appropriate launch based on their size, weight, etc. Even a wrench might take a year to make it to the ISS.

Not so with 3D printing! As if more proof was needed that “it’s all about the content” NASA simple emailed (yep, emailed) the design for the wrench up to the space station and they printed it using the on-board 3D printer that was delivered a while ago for situations just like this.

Read the article at WIRED here:

Frikken’ Awesome!

more to follow…

Update: The awesome Patrick Curran (@pcfromdc) kindly pointed out to me that you can download the 3D print file for the wrench directly from NASA!  Check it out here.