Refabricator 3D printer on ISS will use recycled plastic as feedstock

Tethers Unlimited sent me this update on the installation of the Refabricator 3D printer on the International Space Station:

Refabricator Installed on the ISS
Tethers Unlimited Announces Successful Installation
of the First Recycler-3D Printer On-Board the ISS

Astronaut Anne McClain installs Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator™ recycling and 3D printing payload aboard the International Space Station.

Bothell, WA, 8 February 2019 – Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have successfully installed the first integrated recycler and 3D printer into the station’s experiment racks. This technology demonstration, called the Refabricator, will perform repeated recycling and 3D printing of plastic materials to demonstrate capabilities for supporting long-duration crewed space missions with sustainable manufacturing.

The Refabricator was developed and built by Tethers Unlimited, Inc. for NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Project under funding from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. It combines the ability to recycle plastic items into high-quality 3D printer feedstock, and then use this feedstock to print new items. It is the first plastic recycler on the space station and the first combination of recycling and 3D printing capability in one unit.

“The Refabricator is key in demonstrating a sustainable model to fabricate, recycle and reuse parts and waste materials on extended space exploration missions,” said Niki Werkheiser, manager of In-Space Manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Tethers Unlimited engineers in Bothell, Washington supported the space station operations team while astronaut Anne McClain, also from Washington state, installed the Refabricator into the equipment rack. With the installation complete, Tethers Unlimited eagerly looks forward to the opportunity to begin experiment operations within the next few weeks.

“I’m incredibly proud and thankful for the hard work put in by our team, the astronauts, and the NASA In Space Manufacturing Team to get the Refabricator all the way to installation aboard the space station,” said Dr. Rob Hoyt, Tethers Unlimited’s CEO.  “The Refabricator is intended to demonstrate sustainable in-space manufacturing capabilities that are crucial to minimizing the costs and risks for long duration manned missions on the ISS, to the Moon, and someday to Mars.  It will provide future astronauts the ability to manufacture tools, replacement parts, utensils, and medical implements when they need them and greatly reduce the logistics costs for manned space missions by re-using waste materials and minimizing the amount of replacement parts that must be launched from Earth.”

The Refabricator™ recycling and 3D printing payload has been successfully installed into the International Space Station’s EXPRESS rack.

About Tethers Unlimited, Inc.: Tethers Unlimited, Inc. develops transformative technologies for Space and Defense missions.  Its technology portfolio includes programmable radios for small satellites, advanced space propulsion modules, and systems for in-space manufacturing of spacecraft components.   To learn more about TUI and its products, please visit

About NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Program:

The mission patch for the Refabricator on the ISS.


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