Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center have perfected a construction process called Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3)–essentially a machine that functions like the famous “replicator” in science fiction series Star Trek. “You start with a drawing of the part you want to build, you push a button, and out comes the part,” said Karen Taminger, the technology lead for the Virginia-based research project that is part of NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program. According to Science Daily, Taminger admits that EBF2 reminds people of the Star Trek replicator, in which objects appear magically after a flash of light. “In reality, EBF3 works in a vacuum chamber, where an electron beam is focused on a constantly feeding source of metal, which is melted and then applied as called for by a drawing–one layer at a time–on top of a rotating surface until the part is complete.”
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