Source: Raycom News Network

(RNN) – Its name is the “Refabricator,” and it sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

But it’s a very real science experiment now aboard the International Space Station. The combination 3D printer and recycler arrived on a resupply mission Monday.

Astronauts have been able to do 3D printing in space since 2014, according to NASA. But what they haven’t been able to do is recycle parts and tools when they no longer need them. The new device changes that. It’s the first integrated recycler and 3D printer.

“Refabricator recycles waste plastic materials into high quality 3D-printer filament, providing the potential for sustainable fabrication, repair and recycling capabilities on long-duration space missions,” NASA says. The goal of the system is to make the ISS more self-sustaining. Future resupply missions to the space station won’t require as much 3D-printing material, if astronauts can recycle the old stuff.

They’ll be testing the Refabricator to see how it works in space, but scientists liked the way it worked on Earth before they sent it into orbit.