Space agency shows off breakthrough in 3D printing

Titanium printed structure.
Photo: ESA

The European Space Agency says it has developed a technology that allows metal parts for spacecraft and nuclear reactors to be "printed" as a single piece.

In recent years three-dimensional printing has become commonplace in manufacturing. But so far this method has largely been limited to making plastic objects.

ESA says its metal-printing technology can be used to create more complex shapes than with traditional techniques and leaves almost no waste material. Along with industrial and educational partners, ESU is working to develop the first large-scale production methods for 3D printing metal objects.

The Paris-based space agency presented several sample objects capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit) at an event in London on Tuesday.

Its goal is to make the parts even more durable in the coming years.