Jan.31, 2013

The European Space Agency (ESA) reports today its industrial partner renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

Foster + Partners 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.

(Lunar base made with 3D printing | credit: Foster + Partners)

(Multi-dome base being constructed | credit: Foster + Partners)

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 is close to our natural biological systems.

Using the D-Shape 3D printer developed by Italian inventor Enrico Dini, the team printed out a 1.5 tonne building block using lunar soil as a guide for the base's design. The planned site for the base is at the moon's southern pole, where there is near perpetual sunlight on the horizon.

(1.5 tonne building block | credit: ESA)

Enrico Dini's D-shape 3D printer is a large aluminium gantry structure, which uses CAM software to drive a huge print head during the building process. It can print buildings - at least the most parts of it - on site with much less manpower needed for construction. It deposits sand followed by an inorganic binding material. Excess material acts as a support to the binded structure and when the print is finished the excess material can be removed and reused. This process has low maintenance costs and no water is used since the component parts are 'mixed' when they meet outside of the inkjet nozzles.

(D-Shape 3D printer | credit: ESA)

"First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into 'paper' we can print with," explained 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 m per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week."

Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials.

"As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on Earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials," remarked Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group. "Our lunar habitation follows a similar logic."


"3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth," added Scott Hovland of ESA's human spaceflight team.

D-shape 3D printer will also be used to print the endless Landscape House designed by dutch designer Janjaap Ruijssenaars latest in year 2014.





Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Kk wrote at 3/12/2014 12:14:48 AM:

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Kk wrote at 3/12/2014 12:13:58 AM:

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