Autonomous In-Space Assembly and Manufacturing
Moves Closer to Reality
The seemingly science fiction image of robots autonomously manufacturing components outside of a spacecraft is becoming more realistic with the advancement of this new technology
January 6, 2021, Ipswich, MA - COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems today announced that it will begin working on final development and build of electron beam 3D metal printing systems for a variety of future in-space, lunar, and Martian applications. The work is funded by a SBIR contract from NASA to support the Artemis program’s return to the Moon.
The technology advanced by COSM uses an electron beam to deposit metal from a spool of wire into a large complex part. Capitalizing on decades of experience using charged particle beams systems for imaging and metrology in the semiconductor industry, the new system will automatically monitor and adjust the 3D print process as it occurs.
“Producing large metal parts autonomously to verifiable specifications and quality in-space will be an enabling part of man’s permanent presence on the Moon and further missions to Mars,” said Richard Comunale, company founder and CEO. “This complex task is made possible by fundamental technology developed by COSM with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center. This next step in the technology development will result in the core system components validated for launch and operation in transit, on the Moon and Mars. This is an incredible opportunity and an honor for our team to play a role in NASA’s Artemis program.”
This effort is a follow-on to work COSM completed with NASA Langley on their Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication (EBF3) program, which uses focused electron beams to perform additive manufacturing (3D printing) of metal. Under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), COSM was previously part of a team of companies in a public-private partnership to establish a Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly and Services (CIRAS) in space. The CIRAS program advanced key technologies that are the basis for this next step for in-orbit manufacturing and assembly of large space structures that will help the agency meet its goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system.
“We are excited by the prospect of adding COSM’s high precision electron beam capabilities into the EBF3 process to enhance in-space welding and additive manufacturing for future exploration missions. COSM’s experience enables integrated visualization and sensing in real time to control and inspect work being performed in remote areas,” added Karen Taminger, senior materials research engineer and technical lead for metal additive manufacturing research at NASA Langley.
COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems (cosmtd.com) is a privately held engineering, design and manufacturing firm, based in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Founded in 2011, the company has extensive technology development experience across multiple disciplines and industries, with concentration in charged beam particle systems for semiconductor, flat panel and LED manufacturing systems, as well as 3D metal additive manufacturing.