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- Something new is coming to 3DPrinting.org. A new focus on education and placing a 3D Printer in every school that wants one. Stay tuned!
Most scenarios for building a lunar base involve bringing the habitats from Earth and deploying them in the lunar surface. These habitats could be “hard modules” such as comprise the International Space Station or inflatable modules such as are being developed by Bigelow Aerospace.
But NASA is exploring another way to build a lunar base, using aerospace 3d printing according to Yahoo News. The idea is that a large 3d printer would be landed on the moon and would build the lunar base using concrete made from lunar regolith.
There are a couple of ways one can make the concrete that would be used by the 3d printer. One method would combine carbon nanotubes, glue, and either lunar dust or crushed rock. The other method would combine lunar dust plus a binding element made of silica, aluminum, iron or magnesium, which can be mined locally. The moon also has water, trapped in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles, to make concrete the old fashion way.
The way that 3d printed buildings made of lunar concrete would be created is that the robot would pour our layers of concrete using something called “contour crafting” while robotic trowels smooth the edges while the material hardens. Other robots would install plumbing, electrical systems, and other features. Behrokh Khosnevis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California and director of the Center of Rapid Automatic Fabrication Technologies suggests that such a structure could be erected at the rate of 20 seconds per square feet of wall.
With the extremes of heat and cold, building anything on the moon would be a challenge. On the other hand, with no atmosphere and one sixth gravity, architects will be able to design and build structures that would be impossible on Earth. Thus the first people who return to the moon might find their new homes already built, just waiting to be occupied.