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Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015 Sep;86(9):830-4. doi: 10.3357/AMHP.4308.2015.

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

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Center for Innovative Technologies and Public Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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