03 febbraio 2013
Base lunare con stampe 3D. Progetto ESA.
Il progetto coinvolge lo studio internazionale di design e di architettura Foster & Partners, la facoltà di Ingegneria della Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa e due partner tecnici: Monolite UK (per le stampanti 3D), Alta SpA (ingegneria spaziale).
Il materiale da costruzione sarà ricavato dal terriccio lunare liquefatto con ossido di magnesio, a cui verrà poi applicato un sale per conferire solidità. Il sistema dovrà essere in grado di realizzare 3 metri di parete all’ora per poter completare un intero edificio in una settimana.
Gli ingegneri della Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa e dell'Alta SpA hanno ideato un sistema stampare in 3D in assenza di aria.
Ecco il testo del comunicato dell'ESA:
Building a Lunar Base with 3D printing, 31 January 2013
Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.
“Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat.”
Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.
The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration.
“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” added Scott Hovland of ESA’s human spaceflight team.
“The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy.” Multi-dome base being constructed
The UK’s Monolite supplied the D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 m frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.
3D ‘printouts’ are built up layer by layer – the company more typically uses its printer to create sculptures and is working on artificial coral reefs to help preserve beaches from energetic sea waves.
“First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper’ we can print with,” explained Monolite founder Enrico Dini.
“Then for our structural ‘ink’ we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.
“Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 m per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week.”
Foster + Partners works with European Space Agency to 3D print structures on the moon
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.
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.”