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(Some Guy)   Hopefully this can be scaled up, to print ships in microgravity. Get us moving around the solar system   ( divider line
    More: Cool, International Space Station, IMPERIAL Project, large-scale 3D printer, European Space Agency, RT Dr. Sean Lyons, Project MELT, spare parts, ESA IMPERIAL Project coordinators  
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997 clicks; posted to Geek » on 21 Mar 2019 at 12:14 AM (16 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2019-03-21 12:26:14 AM  
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2019-03-21 12:37:14 AM  
Germans ...
in space.

The IMPERIAL project.

Do you want Jawas? Because this is how you get Jawas!
2019-03-21 02:36:09 AM  
Yeah, while it would be nice if it could do ship stuff they have to figure out how to avoid cold welding if they want space fabrication to be real
2019-03-21 03:36:07 AM  
Somewhere out there SpaceBevets is having an aneurysm over this story.
2019-03-21 05:55:39 AM  
Air Liquide - If There Was No Gravity
Youtube sQfC2w9TYNQ
2019-03-21 07:26:10 AM  

Neondistraction: Somewhere out there SpaceBevets is having an aneurysm over this story.

*tiny 3Dprinted fist*

Quanum Catastrophe.
2019-03-21 08:21:18 AM  
Von Neumann drew up plans for his in the 1940's.
2019-03-21 05:20:20 PM  

lifeslammer: Yeah, while it would be nice if it could do ship stuff they have to figure out how to avoid cold welding if they want space fabrication to be real

I'm in the process up putting together an interactive fiction story set on a generation ship. Most of the people on board are machinists or farm equipment operators, and most of the tooling they deal with are conventional welders, lathes, CNC machines, etc. You really can't get around machining metal, especially in space, and especially if you need parts to survive for decades. Or in the heart of a fusion reactor.

Some exotic parts in the power and propulsion system do require exotic 3d printing techniques. They use processes like plasma deposition sintering: laying powdered material down a few molecules at a time and melting them into the layer below. It avoids imperfections that could cause metal parts to crack in extreme heat. And while it is 3d printing, it's not the sort of thing that is accomplished by Makerbot.

I was trying to envision how robotics and automation would reduce labor. But in my research I've found that modern technology is basically as automated as you would genuinely want something to be. Any more automated and an unsupervised computer that makes a screw up makes a very EXPENSIVE screw up. And there still is no automating repair work. A human still has to inspect and replace parts.

At this point in history the game is set in, there are self-replicating robots. They get around the problem of repair by simply building another robot to replace the broken one. Not a problem if you are out in the asteroid belt or on a planet's surface, and there are 10^whatever kilograms of new material to be harvested. And the robots don't even have to be that efficient with the materials the are working with, or last particularly long.

This particular vessel is going to a star that is 50 light years away. It has a propulsion system that can constantly accelerate the vessel at 1 g. To the people on board, the trip is only 15 years. But to the people on Earth the trip takes 95 years. A distress call would take 50 years to even reach the Earth, and while the crew of your rescue vessel would only take 15 years (to them) to arrive, that's still 95 years to the stranded crew.

On a starship that has to provision out for 150 years, and accelerate those provisions to nearly the speed of light, the self-replicated robot model of operation is not such a great idea. The ship still does have self-replicating robots, mind you. But those are the mission cargo for when they reach the distant star system.

But there is no telling when you leave what materials you will find when you get there. So you have to pack to survive not only your trip, but for how long it would take a rescue ship to reach you if for some reason your own craft could not make the return trip. And you pretty much pack only the material that is in a readily usable state. (Or a chemically stable state that can readily transformed into the compound it needs to be in to work.) There is no room for waste, so recycling, re-using, an re-pairing are the three Rs.

The on-board agriculture is to get around the problem that there is no food storage technology that will allow provisions to keep for the 30 year round trip. 10 years? Sure. 20 years? Maybe if you are choosy about what you pack. (And have a crew that is psychologically prepared to live on rice alone for the last decade.) But 30 years is a bridge too far.

The side benefit is that should the trip end up a one way voyage, or if in 100 years since the vessel left humanity manages to wipe itself out, every one of these ships could sustain themselves indefinitely if they can keep themselves topped up on building material, deuterium, and lithium. Set the mission robots loose, and scoop up the materials they harvest. Either build a permanent colony in the new system, or reprovision to head to another system.

And they might not even need the lithium. The cosmic ray shield for the vessel is a 10 meter thick layer of water and ice. Part of the high-energy interactions that happen produce tritium and Helium 3, and in sufficient quantities that by the end of the voyage, the crew may not even need to breed them from high-energy neutron/lithium7 interactions. They can just refine those isotopes out of their cosmic ray shield.

/I probably said too much
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