Toronto: 3D Printing Goes Beyond Space Travel

It’s just so exciting to discover how far 3D Printing technology can reach. And now it has travelled far beyond in space.

Operated by the Mars Society and designed to simulate the rigours of an eventual mission to the real red planet, The Mars Desert Research Station habitat was founded to serve as a “space analogue facility”. This is where the astronauts set their bags for a stay; weight and space are at premium in there.But last December, Julielyn Wong went to the habitat carrying a 3D printer. She is a doctor from Toronto who wanted to test what tools can be fabricated on the fly to treat ill or injured astronauts.

She explained that astronauts are not able to bring all the surgical supplies to Mars. A
one way rocket to Mars usually lasts for 8 months up to 2 years at most, and there is no
room for unnecessary supplies and weight. So she had an idea to look at the medical inventory for space missions and see how 3D printing can help by converting everything from hardware into something that’s virtual. She believed that the use of 3D printing for space medicine is transformative. The device was to be powered by solar panels, just like a famous Martian energy source.

Wong proved that a solar-powered, off-the-shelf 3D printer was able to produce three different medical devices such as a scalpel handle, a two-in-one dental tool, and a finger splint. She chose to create these objects because they treat the usual complaints in space. Because astronauts in microgravity use their arms to pull themselves rather
than their legs to walk, hand injuries happen frequently. And also, 3D printing can be
useful in case of emergency, much more when the needed supplies are not available.

Wong has long realized that solar-powered 3D printing could improve health care for communities on Earth that are remote or that don’t have access to electricity that’s why
her company, 3D4MD, focuses on both space medicine and terrestrial public health.

Based on the story Toronto doctor using 3D printer to solve the problems of space
travel by Kate Allen