Tools and space parts can be printed for use on the station eliminating the need to manufacture and deliver the gear for launch aboard a cargo spacecraft. Flight controllers could upload a CAD file to the space station for printing complex parts. A crew member could then assemble the newly printed parts to build tools, repair broken gear and even assemble nano-satellites.
During future long-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit a crew will not have the benefit of deliveries from a resupply craft. The new 3-D printing technology could benefit a potential mission to an asteroid or Mars.