That last part is particularly important. 3D printing offers the most feasible way to build habitation – and without habitation, we can’t really stay on Mars for very long. And we’re going to want to stay there if we can, so that we have time to study the mysterious red planet that is so close to Earth, yet so far away. Before we get there, we need to figure out how exactly we can build on Mars, and we’re actually getting quite close to a solution, it seems.
While multiple agencies, universities, companies and even individuals have been studying methods of building habitation on Mars, they all have one thing in common – they agree that the best way to go about it is to 3D print with materials that can be found on the planet. It’s hard to test the idea since we don’t actually have soil from Mars to play around with, but we have been able to come up with some pretty good simulations.
One of those simulations has been catchily dubbed JSC MARS 1-A, and it’s actually taken from volcanic soil in Hawaii. The soil has been processed so that it resembles, as closely as possible, what we know about the characteristics and composition of the soil on Mars. And it’s 3D printable! Fotec, the research arm of the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt, recently undertook a project for the European Space Agency (ESA) in which they 3D printed miniature buildings out of the simulated Martian soil, or regolith.
The structures are very miniature, but Fotec chose designs that space travelers are likely to need to fabricate one day, in this case a wall and a conical hut. Christoph Buchner of Fotec explained that the soil was mixed with phosporic acid to serve as a binding agent and then extruded in layers.
“The hardened results demonstrate the technique has potential for hardware and structural manufacturing on a variety of planetary bodies – it does not depend on the destination,” Buchner said. “So this is a promising step towards ‘in-situ resource utilisation’ – the concept of using as much local materials as possible during a planetary mission, to cut down on the launch mass and cost.”
The tiny printed structures were produced as part of a larger ESA project called “Limited resources manufacturing technologies,” supported by the agency’s Technology Research Programme. While the doll-sized house and wall are a long way from full-sized, habitable structures, this is still a big step – it shows that the material works as a printing agent, and we already know that it’s possible to 3D print full-sized buildings with in-situ materials found here on Earth.
“This is an encouraging result which complements a number of activities ESA is undertaking to provide the technologies for long-distance robotic and manned exploration,” said Tommaso Ghidini, Head of the ESA’s Materials and Process Section. “For such missions, in-situ manufacturing will be key, so we are developing a wide variety of capabilities.”
Discuss in the Martian Soil forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: ESA]
You May Also Like
In-Q-Tel and 3D Printing, Part 1: What’s In-Q-Tel?
So far, a venture capital company called In-Q-Tel has invested in three startups within the 3D printing and scanning space: Voxel8, Arevo, and Fuel3D. If you don’t recognize the name...
3D Printing News Briefs: January 11, 2020
We’ve got some business news to share with you in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs. For starters, Knust-Godwin has purchased a Sapphire 3D printer from VELO3D. The AMable project has...
Canada: University Researchers 3D Print GlioMesh to Treat Brain Cancer
In the recently published ‘A Drug-Eluting 3D-Printed Mesh (GlioMesh) for Management of Glioblastoma,’ Canadian researchers take on the topic of using 3D printing for better treatment of glioblastoma (GBM) as...
Sintratec Providing 3D Printing Support to Daimler Buses for Service Bases
The commercial vehicles segment of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG has fully integrated 3D printing into the development process and series production workflow for several of its divisions, such as...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.