Stratasys collaborates on 3D printed espresso cups for NASA

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

ASA Image: ISS043E160068 - ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti stands next to the ISSpresso machine.
ASA Image: ISS043E160068 - ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti stands next to the ISSpresso machine.
Stratasys has collaborated on a project with Italian firm, Argotec, the University of Portland, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to create 3D espresso printed cups for space.

The cups belong to a microgravity coffee machine called ISSpresso, which produces hot beverages and soup using heated room temperature water. 

Zero-G coffee cups

Capillary Beverage1

Speaking at the Food & Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF2016) in Shanghai, China, recently, Sheldon Shi, pre sales and application engineer, Stratasys, said ISSpresso is not that different to a typical Earth-based espresso machine and produces espresso, broth or tea.

He said NASA and ESA are at the forefront of 3D printing from a small-scale standpoint where astronauts can 3D print parts and items without expensive overheads, as well as printing bases and structures, using Contour Crafting technology and other large-scale 3D printing.

The technology developed to provide espresso, and other hot beverages, in a microgravity environment could lead to new or improved brewing methods and techniques in Earth-based applications.

The idea for the zero-G coffee cups came from Argotec, along with the Italian Space Agency, who realized crew members on long-duration space missions miss the comforts of home, from favorite meals to a fresh cup of coffee.

The cups solve the problem of gravity by containing the flow of liquid in its container via the conditions of the fluid, surface tension, and the shape of the cup.

ISS expedition March 2015-2016

ISSpresso works from a 120V DC power from a Utility Outlet Panel (UOP) which was on the ISS (International Space Station) expedition from March 2015 - March 2016.

Capillary Beverage2

Crew members usually use a NASA standard drink bag that connects to a Potable Water Dispenser (PWD) but this time they could switch to coffee cups.

After ISSpresso is physically and electrically connected, a Water Pouch is installed, and the unit is powered on. A NASA standard drink bag is installed, along with a capsule containing the beverage the crew member wants to drink​,” said Shi.

After the item has been brewed, the used capsule and the drink bag are removed. ISSpresso is then powered off, the Water Pouch removed. ISSpresso is then disconnected from the UOP, and it is removed and stowed​.”

Shi added NASA and ESA has seen a considerable amount of progress with 3D printing technologies over the 12-18 months, in conjunction with privately held companies such as Made in Space.

The researchers now plan to use the ISSpresso machine for a variety of other beverages and future studies to be carried out back on Earth and in space.


Operation Name:​ ISSpresso
Principal Investigator(s): ​David Avino, Argotec, Torino, Italy
Developer(s)​: Argotec, Torino, Italy
Sponsoring Space Agency: ​National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Sponsoring Organization: ​Italian Space Agency (ASI)

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