Made In Space Vulcan

Made In Space, the company that has manufactured over 100 polymer parts in space with its additive manufacturing systems, has been selected for a NASA contract to further develop its next-generation metal space manufacturing system known as VULCAN. The VULCAN system will fabricate precision parts made of aerospace-grade metals such as titanium and aluminum, as well as high-grade polymers and hybrid components that combines multiple materials. It will have the capability to manufacture parts that require the strength and durability of aerospace-grade materials, such as housings for life support systems, that couldn’t be made with any current systems.

“The VULCAN hybrid manufacturing system allows for flexible augmentation and creation of metallic components on-demand with high precision,” said Mike Snyder, MIS chief engineer and principal investigator. “VULCAN is an efficient, safe capability that utilizes the minimum amount of resources during manufacturing processes.”

After a successful completion of a Phase I SBIR contract, VULCAN was recently selected for a NASA Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. Expanding on MIS’s successful development and operation of multiple manufacturing systems on the International Space Station (ISS) with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the technology is being developed for a demonstration on the ISS to prove this capability’s usefulness in future human spaceflight operations, such as aboard the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateaway.

“VULCAN can be important to logistical reduction necessary for long-term exploration,” said Snyder. “The hybrid manufacturing system is a major step forward for efficient space operations, providing the ability to build essential components and assemblies in the space environment, where flying spare parts from Earth are otherwise not viable.”

VULCAN will be the first of its kind to bring machined parts to space, enabling a multitude of more critical parts to be manufactured off world. The system’s hybrid technique utilizes both additive manufacturing to create the desired near net shaped part and traditional manufacturing methods to machine down and create the finished product. The unique system manufactures, refines, and performs quality checks in a streamlined, automated process, eliminating the need for a human in the loop during manufacturing.

VULCAN enables fabrication of precisely-machined metal parts at the point-of-use, such as on the ISS or future crewed space platforms. This technology combines spaceflight proven hardware, a unique manufacturing head for metals, and an integrated sensor system to produce ready-to-use parts for on-orbit use. VULCAN builds on fused deposition modeling, the current method of additive manufacturing employed by MIS’s in-space systems.

VULCAN is engineered to be versatile and upgradeable. Deriving technology from MIS’s flight-proven systems found in its Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), VULCAN has the ability to exchange different machining tools on-demand and can be upgraded over time to meet additional NASA and commercial spaceflight needs.

Over thirty materials are compatible with VULCAN to manufacture parts, including high-performance thermoplastics composites, titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel. The metal parts will be built within the limited power constraints of orbiting spacecraft and space stations.

VULCAN’s origin is linked to Archinaut, MIS’s in-space robotic additive manufacturing, assembly and repair technology. Archinaut is being built to manufacture in the extreme environment of space, with additive manufacturing at the system’s core. Both devices have autonomous robotic capabilities built in. This summer, MIS is completing ground testing and conducting thermal vacuum testing of the entire Archinaut platform.

“We’re very thankful for NASA and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) for supporting our shared vision and allowing us to build upon our expertise of manufacturing on-orbit,” said Snyder.

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