NASA-funded research by University of Southern California professors Behrokh Khoshnevis, Madhu Thangavelu, Neil Leach, and Anders Carlson is exploring how structures on the moon can made using the Contour Crafting robot. Under NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program, the researchers aim to develop methods for creating infrastructure, such as roads and landing pads, to support human settlement on the moon. The technology can create structures in situ from local materials, which is especially important for long-term, continuously expanding operations on the moon. For example, the team is exploring a nozzle system that heats lunar soil into a cement-like paste. In this visualization by Behnaz Farahi and Connor Wingfield, a lander descends on a pad fabricated by the Contour Crafting robot. (Source: University of Southern California/Contour Crafting)
William, I think those are very good points: power and material sources. However, in the case of Contour Crafting, it's designed to use naturally occurring materials, such as various forms of soil. The power concerns, however, remain.
Yes, Ann; you and I have discussed several times previously the history of Rapid Proto methods, especially going way back to 3D Systems' first SLAs in the late 1980's. But I am new to SLS prototyping (just this year) and have been Very Impressed with this material's robustness as a prototype; you can get parts just as fast as conventional SLA, but the material properties are astoundingly better. I still have a lot to learn about them, but as I discovered, this SLS is TOUGH STUFF!
A 3D printer that could use soil or "dirt" would be more amazing than the basic concept of a 3D printer! FRom the descriptions of how the various ones work, it is a challenge to imagine using dirt as a feedstock. So if any details on that sort of system become available they would be real news.
William, that's Contour Crafting making buildings with dirt and similar materials. And here's another AM manufacturer that wants to make buildings with a 3D printer, called D-Shape: http://www.d-shape.com/cose.htm
Thank you Anne Thryt for this amazing article. Brilliant, of course this is the enventuality of 3-D printing. (Dope slap to myself) If you were going to Mars and had a 3-D printer what plans would you bring to print? Trick question: They will send you all the plans you need via CAD files on the earth net!!! Do environmental impacts (LCA) of buildings in the future now have to consider impacts of the building on the universe!? ;-} More at http://www.greenbuildingsolutions.org
Rob_Krebs, glad you're enjoying the slideshow. I think that's a good point about what CAD designs to bring and transmitting the files you forgot by wireless comms. LCA and environmental impacts in space? We don't seem to have done much on that end yet, considering how much space junk we've left out there. Thanks--your points are well taken, although first we've got to actually build some of these things.
Just had a look on this story for one I'm writing now about a 3D-printed lunar base...this is pretty amazing and I'm continuously impressed by what NASA and space scientists are devising. Just the idea of being a space scientist in and of itself is quite cool! I do hope NASA can pull some of this stuff off despite its financial woes. I suppose the influx of commercial influence and funds will help. Perhaps it's a bit frivolous and not necessarily for the benefit of mankind in general to have such high space aspriations, but I like it anyway. :)
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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