From: Bryan Bishop <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 1:33 PM
Subject: [Open Manufacturing] Fwd: [ssi_list] 3-D Printing Device Could Build Moon Base from Lunar Dust
To: Open Manufacturing <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
From: markreiff <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 1:24 PM
Subject: [ssi_list] 3-D Printing Device Could Build Moon Base from Lunar Dust
"3-D Printing Device Could Build Moon Base from Lunar Dust"
: Future astronauts might end up living in a moon base created
: largely from lunar dust and regolith, if a giant 3-D printing
: device can work on the lunar surface.
: The print-on-demand technology, known as D-Shape, could save on
: launch and transportation costs for manned missions to the moon.
: But the concept must first prove itself in exploratory tests funded
: by the European Space Agency (ESA)
: "We will make very basic printing trials in a vacuum environment to
: verify if this is possible," said Enrico Dini, chairman of Monolite
: UK Ltd and creator of D-Shape.
: Dini's D-Shape has created full-size sandstone buildings on Earth
: by using a 3-D printing process similar to how inkjet printers
: work. It adds a special inorganic binder to sand so that it can
: build a structure from the bottom up, one layer at a time.
: The device raises its printer head by just 5 to 10 millimeters for
: each layer, moving from side to side on horizontal beams as well as
: up and down on four metal frame columns. Finished structures end
: made out of a marble-like material that's superior to certain types
: of cement. The buildings do not require iron reinforcing.
: Such a concept might help future lunar colonists live off the land,
: as well as provide thick-walled structures that protect against
: solar storms or micrometeorites.
: Space agencies have already begun testing other technologies meant
: to mine water and oxygen from the lunar regolith. NASA scientists
: have also played with possible recipes for a sort of lunar concrete
: based on moon dust.
: But D-Shape offers the added attraction of having a somewhat
: straightforward building process that does not require huge amounts
: of construction machinery or many robot laborers.
: Making the device work in a lunar environment may yet prove tricky.
: A first challenge involves making D-Shape function within the
: vacuum environment on a moon that lacks any meaningful atmospheric
: pressure. But Dini remains self-admittedly optimistic by nature.
: "I'm not a scientist and I'm not a technician — I'm an inventor,"
: Dini told SPACE.com. He spent five years "facing unexpected issues
: and finding unexpected solutions" when he first designed D-Shape,
: before heeding the call from ESA.
: Dini's Monolite has teamed up with an Italian aerospace firm called
: Alta, which has a large vacuum chamber in its Pisa facilities. They
: hope to build a small structure perhaps just 3 feet (1 meter) on
: each side during the vacuum trials.
: Other partners working on the ESA project include Foster+Partners,
: a UK architecture firm, and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Perceptual
: Robotics Laboratory, an Italian lab that specializes in robotics
: and automation.
: A second challenge comes from the cost of running D-Shape trials by
: using expensive lunar regolith simulant. Dini has tried developing
: a possible alternative to NASA's JSC-1 simulant that might work for
: his research. Structures built from such material will have to
: undergo resistance testing.
: Even a functional D-Shape that works with lunar regolith would
: still face building limitations based on the amount of binder that
: a rocket could carry to the moon. Yet success would mean
: transforming lunar dust into part of the solution, rather than just
: a problem for astronauts and robotic explorers.
: NASA researchers have experimented with a different type of on-site
: manufacturing device that could someday create spare parts or new
: materials for the International Space Station. D-Shape could also
: end up deploying beyond Earth for additional testing, if all goes
: well with the first phase.
: The most important trials will be done in outer space," Dini said.
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