By Peter Haydock
Printing the labels for food to be consumed in outer space aboard the International Space Station may seem a small step for a printer, but it's a giant leap for the Océ Arizona flatbed.
An Océ Arizona 550 GT has boldly reached into space itself, thanks to the demands of an Italian astronaut that he couldn't live without Italian cuisine. While dehydrated meals don't usually sound palatable, a forthcoming batch, to be sent to the ISS by cargo rocket, will contain tasty parmiagiana di melanzane and other Italian favourites.
An Italian food processing company was tasked with providing a contractor with the packaging for dehydrated meals to be consumed by the astronauts during missions in 2013.
This was no simple matter. It required printing and submitting samples of different polyethylene packaging that was subjected to military-level testing including temperature variables, checks for resistance and vacuum conditions, plus safety and boiling tests, all vigorously overseen by the various levels of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Using its Océ Arizona 550 GT inkjet flatbed, the company was able to pass all tests with flying colours. Finally they received the go-ahead to print some hundred polyethylene packages with the delicacy name, the ESA logo along with the contractor logo and other reference codes
Océ Product Manager for the Océ Arizona in Australia, Steven Badger, says many of the details of the project have remained secret at the request of the contractor and the customer. "In space no one can hear you scream with delight. However, it's clear we were able to announce the equivalent of 'Houston, we don't have a problem,'" says Badger.
"After conquering Planet Earth with sales of more than 3.000 units and countless applications, the next frontier for the Océ Arizona is outer space!"