With space offering humanity tantalising opportunities for exploration and innovation, HP has developed a custom printer for use in zero gravity.
NASA chose it as their next-generation printer, replacing the legacy printers it’s been using on the International Space Station (ISS) for the past 17 years. So, in 2018, HP’s custom printer was launched into space on the Space-X 14 rocket, for use on the ISS.
Crew members have specific print requirements, printing about two reams of paper a month using equipment that must be specially adapted for zero gravity. Astronauts use hard copies for procedural and mission critical information like emergency e-books, inventory return trajectories, timelines, and personal items such as letters and photographs.
HP’s engineers found the zero gravity requirements the most challenging to meet. But through creative reengineering and the use of specialised materials and 3D printed components, they reinvented their printing technology to fulfil all of NASA’s criteria. Interestingly, the ink cartridges did not need any re-engineering, so the printer uses standard HP cartridges.
Vikrant Batra, Global CMO said, “I think that this project with NASA is an amazing example of print renaissance because it’s one of those where you have a problem or challenge and you don’t know how to achieve it. But if you have the belief that you can achieve this and then you put your mind to it and teams work towards a solution and they solve it, that’s really what print renaissance is all about.”