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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Plasma Jet Printing Technology for In-Space Manufacturing and In-Situ Resource Utilization, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Manufacturing technologies that can embed structural electronics into objects built at destination are being explored by NASA’s  Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP). Direct write printing technologies play a key role in the fabrication of next generation of printed electronics products. Compatibility of multi material printing technology with in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and in space manufacturing (ISM) is challenging. The need for multiple tools for printing and processing different sets of materials will increase the payload, occupy large space and consume more resources in ISS, all of which are undesirable.

 

 Space Foundry is developing a plasma jet based direct write printing technology to enable printed electronics fabrication in space with reduced processing steps. Plasma jet provides the ability to deposit conductive patterns, insulators, dielectric materials, and semiconductors with precise thickness control and tunable material properties. The material to be printed is aerosolized and focussed using electromagnetic field and plasma that provides directional printing and this electric field controlled directionality makes it a highly suitable technology for operating in micro-gravity environment. The overall objective is to develop a robust plasma jet print head with precision machining of the nozzle for space use, integrated fluid delivery module and miniaturized power supply. The bench top prototype system at TRL level 6 will successfully demonstrate the feasibility of the technology for independent operation at earth and in space. Plasma jet technology has cross cutting applications in sterilization, organics decontamination, water treatment, bioprinting etc., The plasma jet technology offers a unique value proposition to NASA mission needs as it drastically reduces the process steps and eliminates the need for multiple equipment sets. 

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