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NASA Wants Your 3D Printed Habitat Design

NASA Wants Your 3D Printed Habitat Design

Think you can design 3D-printed deep space buildings that will sustain human life? Think your design can win out over zillions of entries? You've got until July 15 to submit your registration package to 3D printing (3DP) public/private institute America Makes for its NASA-sponsored 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

"From Waste to Space" is the $2.25 million competition to design and build 3D-printed habitats for deep space exploration, including NASA's planned manned journey to Mars. Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, the contest aims at advancing the additive manufacturing (AM) construction technology needed to create safe, sustainable housing solutions for space, as well as for use on Earth.

The idea is to send robotic AM construction machines to Mars and beyond that use local materials, such as dust and rock, or a combination of local materials and recyclable materials, to build habitable shelters for astronauts. Why? Because every pound of payload launched into space costs $10,000 just to get into Earth's orbit. That's what it costs to get a liter of bottled water to the International Space Station (ISS), as Made in Space's Jason Dunn pointed out in is RAPID 2015 keynote. NASA has worked with Dunn's company to produce a 3D printer for use on the ISS, and eventually elsewhere in space, to make tools and small items. The same techniques developed in the new habitat design contest may eventually be used here on Earth, too, for constructing affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to traditional building materials.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Slideshow: 3D Printing Will Go To Mars

Once you've submitted your registration package for the design competition, your design is due by August 3, 2015. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a $50,000 prize will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York, September 26-27. You can find key dates, the entry form, and contest rules here. Supporting reference documentation for designing your entry, mostly from NASA, can be found here.

The design contest is only the first phase of the competition. The second phase, which opens on September 26, has two levels. Level 1, the Structural Member Competition, looks for the necessary fabrication technologies for manufacturing structural components from either indigenous materials alone, such as planetary rock, or from a combination of indigenous materials and recycled materials. Level 2, the On-Site Habitat Competition, is focused on fabricating full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials plus recycled ones, combined with 3DP. Both levels begin on September 28, and each carries a $1.1 million prize.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Video: ESA Plans 3D-Printed Moon Base

Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 27 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

Design & Manufacturing Canada, the largest advanced design and manufacturing trade show serving Canada, will take place in Toronto, June 16-18, 2015. Learn more here.

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