Researchers at Washington State University recently demonstrated how to fabricate parts using 3D printer and moon-like material in Rapid Prototyping Journal.
Pieces made from imitation moon rock on 3-D printer. (Image: WSU)
"It sounds like science fiction, but now it's really possible," says Amit Bandyopadhyay, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.
Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, are well known researchers in the area of three-dimensional printing, creating bone-like materials for orthopedic implants.
In 2010, researchers from NASA initiated discussion with Bandyopadhyay, asking if their research team might be able to print 3-D objects from moon rock. Because of the tremendous expense of space travel, researchers strive to limit what space ships have to carry. Establishment of a lunar or Martian outpost would require using the materials that are on hand for construction or repairs. That's where the 3-D fabrication technology might come in.
3D printing allows researchers to produce complex three dimensional objects directly from computer-aided design (CAD) models, printing the material layer by layer. In this case, the material is heated using a laser to high temperatures and prints out like melting candle wax to a desired shape.
To test the idea, NASA researchers provided Bandyopadhyay and Bose with 10 pounds of raw lunar regolith simulant, an imitation moon rock that is used for research purposes.
(raw lunar regolith simulant)
Using additive manufacturing, the material could also be tailored, for example you can produce a strong building material using some moon rock with earth-based additives. They can also weld a joint using local material, said Bandyopadhyay. This could help to repair or provide any tools they need.
"The advantage of additive manufacturing is that you can control the composition as well as the geometry," says Bose. In the future, the researchers hope to show that the lunar material could be used to do remote repairs.
The research was supported by a $750,000 W.M. Keck Foundation grant.
Thanks c metzel for the tip!
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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