The European Space Agency (ESA) recently declared its support for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill,
An Architecture firm in creating a habitat to be built on the lunar surface.
MX3D; A Metal 3D printing firm that gained recognition earlier this year for their metal 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam,
has developed the prototype for a skeletal floor.
The earlier built Amsterdam bridge was
made with wire arc additive manufacturing,
it leverages a robotic arm to melt metal wire into a freestanding device.
To map out the floor systems,
Engineers had to meet construction limitations while maintaining structural integrity.
By laying out stress map analysis and optimized continuous topology,
The lunar floor
MX3D researchers developed a structure with a smooth web motif design that cantilevers from the centre to the outside,
that allows the cross-sections to be printed at lower thickness without losing structural integrity.
MX3D printed the floor using their proprietary WAAM method with 308LSI stainless steel,
A well-known material in the aerospace and space world.
weighing at 3955kg and measuring 4.5metre long, it took approximately 246 hours to print.
The overall floor design is comprised of 6 segments,
each of these pieces is printed individually, They are then welded together,
The structure is held up by three columns and features several floor panels
The convenience and flexibility of 3D printing greatly benefit Space-based construction.
Theoretically the Printers can be set up and used to build an entire habitat,
including using the planet’s regolith as feedstock.
Already the international space station uses 3D printing to print parts,
and tools as needed.
Future space crafts could potentially include printing systems allowing astronauts to print tools and parts as needed.
NASA itself is backing several projects focused on lunar 3D printing.
As part of its Artemis projects, hoping that by the year 2024 astronauts would one day return to the moon to explore the south pole,
The aim of this is long term lunar habitation.
An example of this is Project Olympus.
Project Olympus backed by NASA, and headed by 3D printing firm ICON is developing buildings that are printed directly on the moon, using materials: regoliths found on the moon.
This method would increase sustainability and also back on earth provide sustainable construction.