The European Space Agency launched an ambitious project last night in an attempt to create more components for its space vehicles. The Amaze project—it stands for Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products—aims to create metal components that can withstand 1,000 degree Celsius heat via 3-D printing. "If we can get 3-D metal printing to work, we are well on the way to commercial nuclear fusion," said David Jarvis, ESA's head of new materials and energy research.
The $27 million project, which involves some 28 partners from across the continent, will also serve the aviation industry. Prototypes of metal jet engine parts and sections of airplane wings are already being produced—some over six feet in size. Materials being used include titanium, tantalum, and vanadium. One insider, the ESA's Franco Ongaro, said that 3-D printing uses up less waste. "To produce one kilo of metal, you use one kilo of metal—not 20 kilos," he told the BBC News website. "We need to clean up our act—the space industry needs to be more green. And this technique will help us."
Earlier this year, NASA created a rocket engine injector via 3-D printing. The injector is one of the most expensive components to produce, and the breakthrough could mean cheaper space exploration—that is, if the government shutdown allows it. The U.S. space agency is also planning a 3-D printer for astronaut food.