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Engineering Materials
Slideshow: 3D Printing Will Go to Mars
9/13/2012

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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)
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)

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Beth Stackpole
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3D printing has come a long way
Beth Stackpole   9/13/2012 8:10:06 AM
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Defintely out of this world examples of 3D printing. Very cool that this technology is playing a role in space exploration. It really confirms how far the materials have come in terms of choice and durability/reliability that they are even an option for such serious engineering.

Jennifer Campbell
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Fascinating
Jennifer Campbell   9/13/2012 8:27:51 AM
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This is fascinating, stuff, Ann. I'd like to learn more about Contour Crafing. Do you have any idea about what other cool projects they are working on?

Cadman-LT
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Cadman-LT   9/13/2012 10:00:35 AM
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Yes Beth, I agree. It seems like a month or so ago we were talking about similar things and now here they are here. It just begs the imagination to think about 2 years from now or 5 or even 1 year. I knew this would be big, but it's blowing up! 

Cadman-LT
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Cadman-LT   9/13/2012 10:09:57 AM
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That Contour Crafting seems unreal. I bet that's a few years off, but then again you never know.

Cadman-LT
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Cadman-LT   9/13/2012 10:15:22 AM
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I was wondering about the 0-gravity, but they have already done it. Amazing!

Cadman-LT
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Cadman-LT   9/13/2012 10:20:52 AM
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I really like the electron beam freeform fabrication that seems very neat. It sounds almost like welding, but forming parts.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Ann R. Thryft   9/13/2012 12:31:52 PM
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Beth, I was surprised to discover the Stratasys/NASA project, and then 3D Systems' testing with Made in Space, which was the spark that began this slideshow. Tough stuff indeed!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Fascinating
Ann R. Thryft   9/13/2012 12:34:40 PM
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Jenn, Contour Crafting's potential blows my mind. I mean, 3D printing whole buildings? It's still under development and started out as a mold-making technology for constructing large industrial parts. The inventor expanded the concept to a method for building quick emergency shelters after disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or major earthquakes. The website says it can produce structures such as houses or larger multi-unit buildings, and that "embedded in each house [are] all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning." That's amazing enough, but the process is also designed to use naturally occurring local materials like clay or plaster. That's a big one--no expensive engineering-grade plastic needed. Here's the inventor giving a TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdbJP8Gxqog

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Concerns about extreme Cold
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   9/13/2012 4:18:50 PM
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My initial thought about using the prototype materials was the thermal risks; meaning brittleness and prone to shattering in the extreme cold Martian temperatures. But I recalled a recent environmental test done to an SLS prototype housing.  It was placed in a cold chamber at -55°C and an impact test was run, simulating a sharp impact at extreme cold.  The housing was designed with a 2mm wall thickness, and the SLS didn't even dent, let alone shatter.  And while Martian climate can exceed -55°C, that was the lowest limit of our chamber's capability. But I'm convinced; at least for SLS.

Charles Murray
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Re: 3D printing has come a long way
Charles Murray   9/13/2012 6:07:10 PM
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To me, the most amazing thing is that this technology could be used to build "infrastructure, such as roads and landing pads." It's one thing to build components that have to handl light mechanical stresses. It's another to build structural components that have to handle big loads.

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