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Free Content Ultra-Portable Solar-Powered 3D Printers for Onsite Manufacturing of Medical Resources

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INTRODUCTION: The first space-based fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer is powered by solar photovoltaics. This study seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of using solar energy to power a FDM 3D printer to manufacture medical resources at the Mars Desert Research Station and to design an ultra-portable solar-powered 3D printer for off-grid environments.

METHODS: Six solar panels in a 3 × 2 configuration, a voltage regulator/capacitor improvised from a power adapter, and two 12V batteries in series were connected to power a FDM 3D printer. Three designs were printed onsite and evaluated by experts post analogue mission. A solar-powered 3D printer composed of off-the-shelf components was designed to be transported in airline carry-on luggage.

RESULTS: During the analogue mission, the solar-powered printer could only be operated for < 1 h/d, but was able to fabricate a functional dental tool, scalpel handle, and customized mallet splint over 2 d. Post analogue mission, an ultra-portable plug-and-play solar-powered 3D printer was designed that could print an estimated 16 dental tools or 8 mallet finger splints or 7 scalpel handles on one fully charged 12V 150Wh battery with a 110V AC converter.

CONCLUSION: It is feasible to use solar energy to power a 3D printer to manufacture functional and personalized medical resources at a Mars analogue research station. Based on these findings, a solar-powered suitcase 3D printing system containing solar panels, 12V battery with charge controller and AC inverter, and back-up solar charge controller and inverter was designed for transport to and use in off-grid communities.

Wong JY. Ultra-portable solar-powered 3D printers for onsite manufacturing of medical resources. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015; 86(9):830–834.
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Keywords: additive manufacturing; digital fabrication; global health; long-duration space missions; photovoltaics; space medicine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Innovative Technologies and Public Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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