Thursday, September 26, 2013

Company Plans 3D printing to Build Lunar Structures

If the space program returns to the moon and needs permanent structures for living and working, the problem is how to transport the tons of building materials to carry out space construction. Now a UK and an American company have both come up with systems for building protective permanent weatherproof structures using 3D printing technology and mostly local materials.  The UK builders, working with architects Foster + Partners, have plans that use lunar soil as the basis, mixed with magnesium oxide and a liquid binding "ink".  Construction will achieve a speed of 3.5 meters of structure each hour to quickly construct sturdy buildings that can resist bombardment by micrometeoroids and space radiation.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Next Big Future

Link to article:
3D Printing of a Lunar Base Using Lunar Soil

Excerpt: "Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

This is a case where 3d printing would win out over regular manufacturing. Most of the material is lunar dirt but with added magnesium oxide and a binding ink. This greatly reduces the weight of the material to be brought to the moon. There has been previous work on using carbon nanotubes and epoxy to make lunar concrete.

Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing 'catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.

The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration.

The UK’s Monolite supplied the D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.

'First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into "paper" we can print with,' explained Monolite founder Enrico Dini.

'Then for our structural "ink" we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.

'Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meter per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meter per hour, completing an entire building in a week.'

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