Nov 8, 2017 | By Benedict

NASA has kicked off the third phase of its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, which encourages amateur inventors to come up with 3D printed solutions for human habitats on Mars. Phase 3, the On-Site Habitat Competition, has a $2 million prize purse.

Following the huge excitement generated by the first two stages of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, NASA has kicked off the next phase of its wide-ranging contest by challenging inventors to take part in the On-Site Habitat Competition.

The On-Site Habitat Competition challenges competitors to fabricate “sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials with or without mission-generated recyclables.” It has five levels of competition, and offers a $2 million total prize purse.

In addition to the general objectives of the challenge, Phase 3 also encourages the use of BIM (building information modeling) and virtual construction tools and techniques, in order to “leverage those capabilities and advance the state of the art in that field.”

According to NASA, the first construction level of Phase 3 involves 3D printing a foundation for a habitat. The second demands the 3D printing of walls with penetrations (to simulate windows etc.) while providing a water-tight sealed structure, and the third involves an exciting head-to-head challenge to print a 1:3 subscale habitat, simplified from a full-scale habitat design.

There are also two “virtual” construction levels, to “encourage integration of BIM data with autonomous 3D printing processes.” (Entrants can choose to only participate in the virtual challenges.)

“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, of which the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge is one.

Roman admitted that the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge isn’t easy, but thinks this is necessary to get the best out of its competitors.

“The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult,” she said. “But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve.”

Bradley University, of Peoria, Illinois, is NASA’s chosen challenge partner for the contest, while sponsors Caterpillar Inc., Bechtel, and Brick & Mortar Ventures are also helping to run the competition.

“This challenge isn’t something our students can learn about in a textbook or in a classroom,” commented Bradley University President Gary Roberts. “This is a forward-thinking concept coming to life, and they have a chance to see it firsthand. They will meet the people making it happen and learn about the ideas that are fueling innovation.”

NASA’s Phase 3: On-Site Habitat Competition follows the Phase 1: Design Competition and Phase 2: Structural Member Competition. It will be succeeded by the Phase 4: Full-Scale Habitat Competition. Phase 3 has five levels of competition. Interested teams may register through Feb. 15, 2018. Full details, schedule and rules can be found here.



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