Ultimate Wearable Tech: NASA Using 3D Printing To Design Mars Spacesuit

Teena Hammond | TechRepublic | September 18, 2014

Astronauts will benefit from the use of 3D printing in the new Z-series spacesuit created for survival on Mars.

One of the most recognizable tech wearables, the spacesuit, is being redesigned and 3D printing is helping the development process.  Amy Ross, NASA's leading designer for the Z-series spacesuits, delivered the opening keynote address at the Ubicomp and ISWC 2014 conference in Seattle on Monday. She's spearheading the first total redesign of the prototype Mark III since it debuted in 1982.

"Spacesuits, why do you have to have them? Because you would be dead without them," Ross said during the keynote. Ross provided details of the Z-2 spacesuit, the follow-up to the earlier Z-1 spacesuit that she also designed. 3D scanning and printing is a significant step in the development of the Z-2. A sub-contractor was used for the 3D work. "We used Solid Concepts in Austin Texas. The process used was Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) with Glass filled Nylon 12," Ross said.

The Z-1 spacesuit has been compared to the suit worn by Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story" because of its white and green accented design. The next in the series, the Z-2, was originally expected to be ready for testing in November this year, but it has been delayed until spring 2015. And the third version in the series, aptly named the Z-3, is already going to feature some changes based on what Ross has learned in early tests with the Z-2 spacesuit, she said in a separate interview...