Tag Archives: space
NASA 3D Printing Initiative
A NASA 3D printing initiative is embracing 3D printers and Maker technologies to prepare them for the future of space travel.
NASA has commissioned a company to build a 3D printer that can go into space. We reported about SpiderFab back in September 2012.
“If you’re going to explore Mars, or work on station, [and] you need to bring your own materials, then you really create a sustainable method of constructing a new habitat.”, said Matthew Reyes, Contractor at NASA Ames Research Center.
“Space Shop is our attempt to take the best practices and lessons learned from what we call the maker community,” said Dave Korsmeyer, the director of engineering at NASA Ames.
Learn more in the CNET video below.
3D Printing News
A roundup of the top 3D printing news from April 1 to April 7:
- 3D Printing on Asteroids and Mars (Video)
- The Crowd Loves 3D Printing! Kickstarter 3D Printing Summary
Get your exclusive 15% discount to the Inside 3D Printing conference with discount code PRINT.
3D Printing on Asteroids and Mars
NASA engineers use 3D printing to build a next-generation rover to support humans exploring other worlds, such as asteroids and, eventually, Mars. Watch the video below or see more at Stratasys.
If you look back at the growth of civilization, we have progressed from building huts out of mud and rock to constructing massive skyscrapers with advanced machinery. Imagine now starting over on the moon. How would you go about constructing livable habitats on the moon? Would you transport everything from the Earth?
Similar to a process developed by Washington State University researchers we covered earlier, a concept developed by Foster + Partners proposes to use 3D printing to construct a lunar habitat from material already on the moon.
Foster + Partners is part of a consortium set up by the ESA to explore the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations. Addressing the challenges of transporting materials to the moon, the study is investigating the use of lunar soil, known as regolith, as building matter.
The practice has designed a lunar base to house four people, which can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature fluctuations. The base is first unfolded from a tubular module that can be transported by space rocket. An inflatable dome then extends from one end of this cylinder to provide a support structure for construction. Layers of regolith are then built up over the dome by a robot-operated 3D printer to create a protective shell.
To ensure strength while keeping the amount of binding “ink” to a minimum, the shell is made up of a hollow closed cellular structure similar to foam. The geometry of the structure was designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with consortium partners – it is groundbreaking in demonstrating the potential of 3D printing to create structures that are close to natural biological systems.
Simulated lunar soil has been used to create a 1.5 tonne mockup and 3D printing tests have been undertaken at a smaller scale in a vacuum chamber to echo lunar conditions. The planned site for the base is at the moon’s southern pole, where there is near perpetual sunlight on the horizon.
The consortium includes Italian space engineering firm Alta SpA, working with Pisa-based engineering university Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna. Monolite UK supplied the D-Shape™ printer and developed a European source for lunar regolith stimulant, which has been used for printing all samples and demonstrators.
Lord Foster: “This project is a significant and pioneering step in space age construction. Working with our European colleagues, it is part of our on-going commitment to research and innovation.
”Xavier De Kestelier, Partner, Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group:“ As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials – our lunar habitation follows a similar logic. It has been a fascinating and unique design process, which has been driven by the possibilities inherent in the material. We look forward to working with ESA and our consortium partners on future research projects.”
Image credit: ESA.
As scientists prepare for the next stage in space exploration and the construction of a lunar base, there is a challenge. What do you do if something breaks? How do you ship repairs from Earth?
The answer is you don’t. Astronauts can use 3D printing to build repairs from moon dust.
Researchers at Washington State University have successfully simulated this process using a composite material similar to moon dust.
The simulant is an expensive combination of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxides. Meant to mimic the properties of the regolith found on the moon, the powdery material had a particle structure resembling that of ceramics.
Because of their tendency to crack, ceramics can be tough to manipulate using 3D printers. But the WSU researchers, including husband-and-wife team Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, had previously demonstrated that ceramic-like material can be re-formed with an on-demand fabricator to create custom-made bone scaffolding.
For the new study, the researchers fed the raw simulant powder into a 3D printer, heating the material to high temperatures and printing it out in smooth half-millimeter (0.02 inches) layers to form small cylindrical shapes with no visible cracks. The structures that came out of the printer were about as hard as typical soda lime glass, the researchers explain in a study detailing the recent experiments in the Rapid Prototyping Journal.
“It is an exciting science fiction story, but maybe we’ll hear about it in the next few years,” Bandyopadhyay said. “As long as you can have additive manufacturing set up, you may be able to scoop up and print whatever you want. It’s not that far-fetched.”
Moon photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center used under Creative Commons license.