A futuristic reality: 3D printed SpaceX helmets
Space travel and additive manufacturing are synonymous to innovation, and this time we are combining the two to take a closer look at the 3D printed SpaceX helmets. Elon Musk is well known for his inventions that seem to be straight out of science fiction movies and the launch of Dragon, the first privately developed spaceship, is no exception. While the spaceship and its commercial implications have been widely discussed in the media in the last few days, it is time to take a closer look at the design of the spacesuits, and particularly the 3D printed helmets. The availability of desktop 3D printers allows to independently replicate almost the exact design of the SpaceX helmets.
The two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, aboard Dragon are wearing custom-tailored suits that consist of touchscreen compatible gloves, flame resistant outer layer, and most interestingly, 3D printed helmets. Each helmet features a visor, valves, locks and microphones. The spacesuits were designed by the well-known Hollywood designer Jose Fernandez, who is behind the design of costumes for The Avengers, Batman Vs Superman, X-Men etc. – clearly, Elon Musk was aiming at the superhero vibe and it is safe to say that he succeeded. The suits were later reverse engineered to meet space travel requirements.
The creators decided that it would be best to use 3D printing technology for the helmets. While it was not revealed officially, it is most likely that the FDM method was used to print the helmets, since there is a wider availability of advanced materials such as PEKK, which is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic that is increasingly used in the additive manufacturing market. PEKK is a non-flammable material and does not give off toxic fumes during printing; moreover, it has a very good resistance to abrasion – an important feature for a space helmet. It should be mentioned, however, that PEKK has been made available for the SLS process as well.
With FDM 3D printers available on the market one could relatively easily print a SpaceX helmet at home. Some websites, such as Yeggi, STLFinder, Cults3 and Adafruit, already offer STL files ready to download. They are possible to print on standard FDM machines. The good thing is you do not have the pressure of using the most advanced materials for your independent project, so there is probably no need to invest in rather costly PEKK. Therefore, feel free to explore all available options and choose a filament that suits best your needs.
What do you think of these 3D printed space helmets? Are you ready to try and replicate them? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, all the latest news in 3D printing straight to your inbox!