Jul 26, 2018 | By Thomas

New york-based architecture and technology company AI spacefactory released details of MARSHA (MARS HAbitat), a 3D-printed visionary verticle housing on mars. AI SpaceFactory is the second-place winner of Phase 3: Level 1 of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge and was awarded a top prize of almost $21,000.

NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, which began in 2014, aims to further the progression of sustainable shelters that will someday occupy the Moon, Mars or beyond by pushing citizen inventors to develop new technologies capable of additively manufacturing a habitat using indigenous resources with, or without, recyclable materials.

As NASA advances deep space exploration, reliable life-supporting habitats will be essential. But creating a structure on the surface of Mars is an extraordinary challenge considering the extensive limits on transporting materials and the differences in atmosphere and landscape. AI spacefactory’s solution relies on materials harvested from the Martian surface. This enabled by a technology known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). The team is formulating an innovative mixture of basalt fiber extracted from Martian rock and renewable bioplastic (polylactic acid, or PLA) processed from plants grown on Mars. Basalt fiber is known for its superb tensile strength and it's comparable to carbon fiber and kevlar yet much simpler to produce.

According to AI SpaceFactory, MARSHA marks a radical departure from previous Martian designs typified by low-lying domes or buried structures. Instead, its design concept includes using a cylindrical shape for maximum space and safety. This shape is optimized for Mar's internal atmospheric pressure and structural stresses.

MARSHA's vertical orientation and small footprint also alleviate the need for a construction rover moving on unfamiliar ground. Instead, MARSHA is constructed with a vertically telescoping arm attached to a stationary rover throughout the 3D printing process.

To isolate the habitable spaces from the natural expansion and contraction caused by extreme temperature swings on Mars, MARSHA uses a unique dual-shell system that separates the pressure vessel from the habitable area.

MARSHA's functional areas are spread over four levels identified by a unique interior atmosphere that encourages mobility and averts monotony. Via the large skylight above and intermittent windows, the space between the two shells acts as light-well connecting all levels with diffuse natural light. This unique space allows for a stair to arc gently from floor to floor, adding dimension to daily life.

The design team also formulates a material specifically for 3D printing on mars: basalt fiber-reinforced polylactic acid (bf-PLA). PLA is a strong thermoplastic that is recyclable yet and has the added benefit of in-situ manufacture. It has lowest coefficient of thermal expansion among plastics – crucial to achieving composite action with chopped basalt fiber, which is also highly stable. Being a bioplastic, emissions from PLA printing are benign, unlike petrochemical plastics which emit high levels of toxic micro-particles such as styrene. PLA is prized for its low conductivity and basalt is among the most effective insulators known. Together, they shield against the extreme exterior environment.

AI SpaceFactory will now proceed with the MARSHA project for the next level of the NASA On-Site 3D Printed Habitat Competition. Each team must use Building Information Modeling software to design a habitat that combines allowances for both the structure and systems it must contain. They must also 3D print a 1:3 functional prototype of the habitat for the final level.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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