Press Release 31.01.2013
Foster + Partners is part of a consortium set up by the ESA to explore the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations. Addressing the challenges of transporting materials to the moon, the study is investigating the use of lunar soil, known as regolith, as building matter.
The practice has designed a lunar base to house four people, which can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature fluctuations. The base is first unfolded from a tubular module that can be transported by space rocket. An inflatable dome then extends from one end of this cylinder to provide a support structure for construction. Layers of regolith are then built up over the dome by a robot-operated 3D printer to create a protective shell.
To ensure strength while keeping the amount of binding “ink” to a minimum, the shell is made up of a hollow closed cellular structure similar to foam. The geometry of the structure was designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with consortium partners – it is groundbreaking in demonstrating the potential of 3D printing to create structures that are close to natural biological systems.
Simulated lunar soil has been used to create a 1.5 tonne mockup and 3D printing tests have been undertaken at a smaller scale in a vacuum chamber to echo lunar conditions. The planned site for the base is at the moon’s southern pole, where there is near perpetual sunlight on the horizon.
The consortium includes Italian space engineering firm Alta SpA, working with Pisa-based engineering university Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna. Monolite UK supplied the D-Shape™ printer and developed a European source for lunar regolith stimulant, which has been used for printing all samples and demonstrators.
Xavier De Kestelier, Partner, Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group:
“As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials – our lunar habitation follows a similar logic. It has been a fascinating and unique design process, which has been driven by the possibilities inherent in the material. We look forward to working with ESA and our consortium partners on future research projects.”
Looking forward to tonight. First meet! Arts University 6 -9pm.
Thursday 7th November 2013
I skipped Uni today and instead visited the 3D Printshow at the Business Design Centre in Islington. What a show! There was a myriad of stands all demonstrating their wares. It primarily focused on 3D printers, 3D scanners, 3D software & filament makers. There were all manner of printers even though my research so far has shown that there are primarily only two types within the entry level FDM sector.
The Delta Tower machine put up a good show and I had a long chat with the man on the stand. He said that. It might be feasible for the company to help out with my project. I will contact them next week! The most help I had was from a company based in China. They supply all the components for manufacturing desktop printers. After an in-depth chat with the technician, it was decided that, yes, it was feasible for my project to work! That was really good news albeit I should contact a robotics specialist.
Another bonus for going was the answer to one of my primary questions : 'Does the build bed have to be perfectly level?' The answer is NO! The Delta Tower machine has a calibration system that determines the angle of the build bed and prints with compensation! Wow!
The filament maker was the only one there at the show. This intrigued me as recyclability is a big issue with the rise of home market printers. The Ethical Filament Foundation had a stand. This showed the start of the use of recycled plastics currently taking place in India. It promoted the sourcing of filament directly from waste picker groups in developing countries. Excellent!
I managed to attend just one seminar. The speaker is Richard Hague, a professor in Innovative Manufacturing from Nottingham University. The subject was 'Exploring the potential of Additive Manufacturing and the move to Multi Functionality'. Great speaker! Lives and breathes the subject. There was a great section on topology optimisation and fluid optimisation. He discussed re-optimised engineering and flow control where using additive manufacturing has the ability to put the path around the flow rather than conventionally putting the flow into the path. Great stuff! I thought I could catch him out with the 'printing in voxels' question but he already had an answer.... We already are! His vision of the future is jetting. He already has a machine with four jet heads capable of spraying four different metals! The heads heat up to 2000 degrees. Apparently, the bonding process is excellent when spraying multi metals. The beauty of this is the fact that the machine is capable of producing objects made from semi-conductor materials. Combine this with Jennifer Lewis batteries (super small - grain of sand sized; can be jetted!) and we are printing electrical systems.
The future looks promising!