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3D-printed parts promise a revolution in the space industry, rapidly creating almost any object needed. But do the results really have the right stuff for flying in space? ESA is now checking if their surface finish comes up to scratch.

3D printing involves building an item by laying down successive layers of material, rather than cutting away from a solid block.

ESA's Clean Space initiative continues to look at ways of reducing the environmental impacts of space technologies -- and 3D printing slashes waste.

Extremely complex parts can be printed and made as light as possible, but there's a catch: 3D printing tends to end up with rougher surfaces than their traditional counterparts.

While this is not a major issue for terrestrial applications, there could be important consequences for their use in space. As Nobel-winning chemist Linus Pauli once observed: "'God made solids but the devil made surfaces."

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