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'Hardware Store in Space': Lowe's Wants to Send Commercial 3-D Printer to ISS

by Mike Wall, Space.com /

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The home-improvement industry will soon get its first foothold in space.

California-based startup Made In Space is partnering with home-improvement giant Lowe's to launch a commercial 3-D printer to the International Space Station (ISS) early next year, representatives of both companies announced Thursday (Oct. 29).

Made In Space built the 3-D printer, which is called the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), and will retain ownership of the machine. But the AMF sports a Lowe's logo, and the company will use it to make branded tools. [10 Ways 3D Printing Could Transform Space Travel]

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 Made In Space and home-improvement company Lowe's are partnering on the Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3-D printer headed to the International Space Station in early 2016. Made In Space/Lowe's

"It is the first hardware store in space," Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, the company's innovation hub, told Space.com. "Lowe's sells tools on Earth, and this way we're going to be able to provide tools in space as well."

One Lowe's store in the San Francisco Bay Area will also feature a replica of the AMF, as well as the section of the ISS that houses it, after the 3D printer gets to orbit, Nel added.

Made In Space hardware is already aboard the ISS; the company built a technology-demonstrating 3-D printer for NASA that was installed aboard the space station in November 2014. That machine has worked well in microgravity conditions, paving the way for the AMF, which will be a fully operational, commercially oriented machine available to a variety of customers.

Related: Special Delivery: Space Station Sends 3-D-Printed Parts Back to Earth

The AMF's launch date and launch provider have not yet been determined, but the 3-D printer should get off the ground in the first half of next year, Made In Space president Andrew Rush said.

This is a condensed version of a report from Space.com. Read the full report. Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow Space.com @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+.

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