Grasp case: 3D printed parts with Tumaker technology travel to space

Tumaker technology has been present in the GRASP (Gravitational References for Sensorimotor Performance: Reaching and Grasping) project carried out in space by ESA (European Space Agency) with the help of the development of the information collection system by Tecnalia.


The main objective of the experiment was to understand the functioning of the central nervous system and how it integrates the information of different sensations (sight or hearing, for example) in different frames of reference, to coordinate the movements of the hands with the visual environment. That is, if – and how – gravity acts as a frame of reference for the control of the reach of the hand.

It was done through a head-mounted screen, powered by an audio / graphic system (virtual reality engine); that is, a 3D motion analysis system that is used to update visual and audible screens in real time to analyze the movements of the head, trunk, arm and tool (hand).

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One of the problems encountered when performing the GRASP experiment was the insufficient attachment of the infrared markers to the virtual reality headset. The team opted for 3D printing to manufacture several pieces to exact measure and composed of concrete plastics to ensure the greatest support, quality and information.

“In the previous period of sending the GRASP hardware for launch, we detected that the infrared markers we used to measure the movements of the astronaut’s head were not attached to the virtual reality helmet with sufficient stability and precision. We opted for 3D printing to produce custom media to stabilize this coupling. Tumaker provided us, in the short term, not only with the materials to manufacture the supports, but also with information on the composition of the plastics necessary to satisfy the security measures required for manned space flights.” – Dr. Joseph McIntyre, Ph.D.


With the innovative technology of Tumaker, key pieces were obtained to create part of the hardware used in this experiment, more specifically in the subjection of the virtual reality device HMD (Head

Mounted Display) to the H-shaped structure.
The pieces were printed with one of the professional printers marketed by Tumaker, the Flying NX HD: an industrial FDM 3D printer that highlights its Internet connectivity, the finishing of its high quality parts and the possibility of working a wide variety of materials.

Why was the GRASP experiment performed?

Gravitational References for Sensomotor Performance: The Reaching and Grasping Experiment (GRASP) is designed to make use of a 3D tracking system. Such an experiment could help scientists explore new treatments for neurological diseases.

Space applications:

Living in space requires the adaptation of something more than the astronaut’s body. The absence of a traditional ascent or descent requires that the brain adapt to the micro gravity environment of spaceflight. This research provides more information on how the body adapts to the micro gravity environment.

Land applications:

Research can help researchers better understand the functioning of the human vestibular system and how it connects with the other sensory organs. In other words, you will gain a better understanding of the physiology behind eye-hand coordination, as well as shedding light on the best way to treat the loss of vestibular function on Earth. This research will also be useful to help astronauts during spacewalks.

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