Made In Space (MIS), a Californian manufacturer, and Braskem, a Brazilian petrochemical company have teamed up to develop a recycling machine so send to the International Space Station (ISS). The machine will be sent up on the upcoming Northrop Grumman‘s 12th commercial resupply mission.
The Recycler will be used to convert plastic and 3D printed parts already on the station to improve the sustainability of the station’s manufacturing capabilities. This could have the potential to create an almost close loop manufacturing cycle.
“Local manufacturing resources are a crucial capability for space exploration,” commented MIS Chief Engineer Michael Snyder. Continuing “Demonstrating and validating recycling capabilities on the ISS is an important step towards developing sustainable manufacturing systems that will enable us to venture deeper into the solar system.”
Once the Recycler is on the ISS it will produce recycled feedstock for the Additive Manufacturing Facility AMF already installed back in 2016. The material will be loaded into the recycler to be shredded, heated, extruded, and spooled. This process only has one manual labor stage, loading the material, other than that it’s mostly automated. The specific polyethylene that is recycled will be called “I’m green” Biobased PE.
“On Earth, we are committed to a joint effort, involving our customers, value chain partners and society at large, to find more sustainable solutions through the use of plastic,” added Braskem CEO, Fernando Musa. “In space, by supporting Made In Space, we have the opportunity to contribute to reducing mission costs and optimizing the transported weight.”
With the addition of the Recycler the need for resupply missions will be reduced by improving reusability and sustainability of manufacturing processes in space, this in turn can allow the possibility of long-duration space exploration.
Vialva, Tia, et al. “Made In Space and Braskem Launch 3D Printing Recycling Facility Aboard the ISS.” 3D Printing Industry, 30 Oct. 2019, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/made-in-space-and-braskem-launch-3d-printing-recycling-facility-aboard-the-iss-164004/.