NASA has joined other research and educational institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the British Geological Survey, by providing free 3D printable files users can download and print for educational and informational purposes. The NASA 3D Resources, found at http://nasa3d.arc.nasa.gov/, features a collection of 3D models, textures, and images from NASA.
Many of the 3D files have been converted to STL format which you can 3D print at home or send to a 3D printing service. However, the site is still in beta and has a disclaimer pertaining to the 3D files, “This STL file was produced by scaling the original model and converting it directly to STL format; it may not yet be ideal for printing. We welcome your feedback on your experience.”
We downloaded and 3D printed the model of the Gale Crater on a MakerBot Replicator 2. The print had many details showing the features of the crater and we didn’t have any problems with the print. However, some of the other models, especially the satellites, have very thin parts and will need to be scaled or modified to make them printable on a consumer printer.
On the site, NASA encourages users to provide feedback if you have to make adjustments and changes when 3D printing the models. Providing the feedback will enhance the site and make it easier for other users to print the models in the future.
All of the STL files are located under 3D Printing. If you click 3D Printing you will see the list of STL files in alphabetical order. Most of the models consist of satellites, geographical features, like craters, and models of asteroids. The printable files also include some interesting information about the object and model.
This is a good resource for students, teachers, and anyone interested in NASA and space. We look forward to the collection growing with more 3D-printable models in the future.