Once you accept the premise of putting a human colony on the moon or on Mars, the idea of taking 3D printers with you is a bit of no-brainer. In fact, it has already happened.
To help develop the idea NASA is running a competition for students to design a tool suitable for use in those environments that could be printed out on a 3D printer.
If you are a K thru 12 student in the United States, your challenge is To Design a Space Tool. The ability to 3D print in space is a game-changer for space exploration. Just think about it, when astronauts are on Mars, they will have the ability to make whatever they need, on demand, even though Earth is just a little blue glimmer in the sky. That’s exactly why we are challenging our next generation of explorers to start designing parts for space now. We want students to create and submit a digital 3D model of a tool that they think astronauts need in space. If you win, your design will become a part of space history as one of the first things ever to be 3D Printed in Space.
Nice idea, but given the sorts of themes we are interested in around here, it is worth pointing out the link between the technology and paid work.
I mean, it’s hardly the first time someone has used a competition as a way of getting people to do design things for free, but here it is again.
Don’t want to be too cynical about it — and I understand the attraction of reaching out to a younger generation — this sort of thing is a sign of the times, big organisations leveraging unpaid work to get things done.