PARC is printing electronics for NASA to send into space

first_imgPARC, previously known as Xerox PARC, is nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley. PARC is responsible for many of the computing innovations we now take for granted including the graphical user interface, the mouse, laser printers, and more. These days PARC is working on something a little more out there, but still well within its wheelhouse. For the last few months, researchers at PARC have been printing functional electronics on plastic.This is part of a collaboration with NASA that aims to create functional environmental sensors to measure temperature and light in space, or even on Mars. The electronic components are printed on a thin sheet of plastic, much like ink is deposited on paper in a regular inkjet printer. The sensors could be released in the Martian atmosphere and allowed to float downward, covering a large area.The eventual goal is to reach a point where all the components for a spacecraft can be printed on-demand. PARC expects to have printed electronics ready for testing by NASA after a 14 month development process. NASA will then work with Boeing to test the sensors for reliability in harsh conditions with radiation, extremes in temperature, and a vacuum.Working prototypes right now are limited to more conventional terrestrial applications. For example, a smart shipping label that can track environmental conditions or track itself. As the process is fleshed out, NASA and PARC hope to be able to equip spacecraft with electronics printers so that astronauts can make their own components. When combined with traditional 3D printing, this technique could be used to make almost any object the crew might need in space.last_img read more

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