If an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) needs a medical tool, such as a surgical instrument or a finger splint, they normally have to wait for a resupply mission. But that is about to change this month, when NASA astronauts will use a 3D printer aboard the ISS to create medical tools in space.
The ground-breaking concept was devised by Toronto doctor Julielynn Wong. In 2011, Wong founded the company 3D4MD, which uses 3D printing and low-cost technologies to supply remote locations, including space, with healthcare supplies. Wong explained how the process works to CTV’s Your Morning on Monday, using an example of an astronaut injuring their hand on the space station.
“We could take a laser scan stored from the fitting process for space suit gloves, use free software to create a digital model of a custom-fitted finger splint, uplink that digital file to the space station and 3D print it in space,” Wong said.