December 18, 2014 AT 2:00 am

NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon & Other Planets Using In-situ Materials and a Really Hot Laser #3DxSpace #3DThursday #3DPrinting

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NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon & Other Planets Using In-situ Materials and a Really Hot Laser. From 3DPrint.com:

…Using basalt regolith (BP-1) and lunar basalt simulant (JSC-1A) as building materials for their robotic additive construction, they were able to test to see if this method of 3D printing the in-situ resources on the moon and other planets could be feasible. Researchers needed to come up with a way to take this regolith found on non-terrestrial surfaces and then harden it in a way that it could be used as a building material. Some of the methods available to do this include solar heat sintering, microwave sintering, polymer binders, compaction, regolith paste extrusion, and lunacrete forming. After careful examination, the KSC researchers “selected laser heating using an infrared laser as the most direct method to deliver a sufficient amount of energy into a small volume that will allow granular regolith particles to fuse together.”

The preliminary results are quite interesting:

“Flexural strength testing (3 point bending) was performed on test coupons of solid processed BP-1 and JSC-1A using an Instron load frame testing machine and 100 kN (22,480 lbf) load cell. Multiple samples and tests were conducted for repeatability. Test results indicated that the samples had strengths better than residential concrete, and similar to some weaker glasses (Bon,2003). Testing of useful shapes beyond test coupons has focused on structures with unsupported spans (which pose a challenge for any Additive Manufacturing process), including cones, hemispherical domes, and ogive domes.

…NASA KSC says that the results have been promising but we must consider the fact that they are only at a “bench top scale.” Researchers are continuing to work on the development of this innovative technique, as well as issues that they foresee arising….

Read More.

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