3-D printing could create lunar base

Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:14 PM

PARIS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Setting up a lunar base could be made simpler by using 3-D printing technology to build it from local materials in the lunar soil, European researchers say.

The European Space Agency reports it has joined with industrial partners to test the feasibility of using 3-D printing to create a structure with material from the lunar surface.

"Terrestrial 3-D printing technology has produced entire structures," Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA, said.

"Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat."

For the test, British company Monolite supplied its D-Shape printer with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 20-foot frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.

"First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into 'paper' we can print with," Monolite founder Enrico Dini said.

"Then for our structural 'ink' we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid."

In the test the printer was able to create a 1.5-ton structural block from the simulated lunar soil.

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