There are tons of online services already like iMaterialize and Shapeways - they do really excellent work.
English picks up foreign words; why can't German pick up foreign words?
They're saying that it won't break because that's not the purpose here. The description of the experiment is:
In addition to safely integrating into the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), the 3D Print requirements include the production of a 3D multi-layer object(s) that generate data (operational parameters, dimensional control, mechanical properties) to enhance understanding of the 3D printing process in space. Thus, some of the prints were selected to provide information on the tensile, flexure, compressional, and torque strength of the printed materials and objects. Coupons to demonstrate tensile, flexure, and compressional strength were chosen from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. Multiple copies of these coupons are planned for printing to obtain knowledge of strength variance and the implications of feedstock age. Each printed part is compared to a duplicate part printed on Earth. These parts are compared in dimensions, layer thickness, layer adhesion, relative strength, and relative flexibility. Data obtained in the comparison of Earth- and space-based printing are used to refine Earth-based 3D printing technologies for terrestrial and space-based applications.
The description is not "Print out a wrench so that crew members can change a rusty lug bolt". And yes, also from the description page, they include direct metal printing as part of their list of ultimate goals with 3d printing in space research.
3d printing has tons of applications here on Earth. However, this does not include general-case home 3d printing. Unfortunately, that's what most people here on Slashdot want to judge it by.
Indeed. 3d printing is not going to be suitable for mass production, for keeping a whole colony supplied in bulk components.** But for small specialty parts, it seems like an obvious answer to that piece of the equation. As the tech advances, it's just going to get more and more capable. I'm personally looking much forward to seeing whether a 3d printer that works based on thermal spraying would work out - then your production material choice would be almost limitless, pretty much any powder or small fibers you can think of that can be made to merge with the substrate through any custom combination of either temperature or velocity, and your balance between deposition rate and precision could be chosen just by rotating through nozzles of different sizes, none of the feed mechanism or material storage or anything. Your same printer could even paint, coat, sandblast, or pretty much any other post treatment on its own.
** Concerning not being able to use 3d printing for mass manufacturing: That is, assuming 3d printing as we think of it today, printing a voxel at a time. However, if you made a custom programmable 3d *molder*, where it forms a cavity of a programmable shape, that could be a different story - then you're approaching true mass production potential. Custom programmable stamping tools and other manufacturing processes could also be developed.
Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him.
A lot of the slashdot crowd still thinks of 3d printers in terms of Makerbots and the like, the low end consumer-level home 3d printers. They really have no clue what professional level hardware can achieve. They'd be singing a different tune had they ever ordered 3d-printed parts from a professional 3d printing service.