Space-Based 3-D Printers Could Create Tools From Moon Dust
Washington State University researchers made these cylinders on a 3-D printer using simulated moon rock. The technology would help lunar travelers make tools and repairs with materials found on the moon.
Shipping stuff to space is expensive. It’s a significant barrier to any form of manned space exploration, let alone colonization. 3-D printing has been suggested as a way to save on weight - if you need a wrench, you print it out, rather than carrying a wrench. But even 3-D printing requires carrying raw materials. At least, it did.
Amit Bandyopadhyay and his collaborators published recently in the Rapid Prototyping Journal an experiment in which they used a high-powered laser to liquefy and 3-D print moon rocks.
Well, not moon rocks exactly. NASA sent the team a bunch of fine, black powder that was compositionally similar to what you’d find on the moon, and asked if they could 3-D print it.
“We had a system,” says Bandyopadhyay, a professor at Washington State University’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “Before doing this we did some work with ceramic powders. That was published, and quite successful, so I guess that was the reason we got the call.”...