The Apollo 11 mission to the moon took eight days. If humans want to build permanent bases on the moon, even on Mars or beyond, then future astronauts will have to stay in space for more days, months or even years, without ever-continuing from the Earth. In the case of supply. So how does humans get what they need—using rockets to send all the equipment and supplies to build and maintain long-term settlements on the moon would be very expensive.
This is where 3D printing can be used, so that astronauts can use the raw materials to build any lunar colony they need. Many of the excitement of 3D printing around space is focused on building buildings from lunar rocks using 3D printing. But my research shows that using this moon dust to provide replacement parts for various equipment for the lunar manufacturing lab may be more practical.
3D printing is technically known as additive manufacturing and consists of complex technologies that can be used to produce physical products of virtually any shape or geometric complexity through digital design. This technology has been able to make things from a variety of materials including metals, ceramics and plastics, some of which can be used to make space-grade equipment.
3D printing also has the added benefit of working with minimal human effort. You can set it to print and wait for the finished product. This means it can even be operated remotely. In theory, you can send a 3D printer to the moon (or any other space destination) before the astronaut arrives, or even let it begin to build the structure before the astronauts arrive.
Of course, this presents a major challenge. 3D printing was developed primarily for use on the Earth and relies on a constant constant gravity and temperature level to operate as designed. So far, it uses far less material than found on the moon or on the surface of Mars.
The moon is covered with loose powdery matter, which is formed by millions of meteors bombarding the surface of the moon. This has slowly transformed the surface layer of the bedrock into a soil-like material with a diameter of less than a few millimeters. In theory, you can use regolith for additive manufacturing, but for 3D printed houses or more basic components (such as bricks and cement), you will need to mix other materials from the earth with regolith, such as liquid binders.
My colleagues and I have been researching how to use regolith 3D to print a range of engineering components. Our technology involves the use of a laser to convert very small amounts of energy into heat that can be melted and fused together to form a thin, solid material. By repeating this process multiple times and adding more layers in order, we can finally build a 3D object.
The thickness of each layer is less than 1 mm, so building large structures (such as walls or complete bunkers) will take an unrealistic amount of time. Conversely, it is generally much better to produce smaller, precisely designed, highly precise objects, such as dust or water filters, which typically require holes smaller than micrometers (0.001 mm). 3D printing is especially useful for copying important parts. If there are damaged or worn parts that are damaged and need to be replaced more quickly, 3D printing will be much faster than the supply ship will ship new parts from the earth.
In order to figure out how to make this 3D printing work in space, we have conducted in-depth research on materials and processes and tried to understand how the state of the moon affects them. If there is no ready-made supply of ready-made hard silica, the materials we use will mimic the bulk of its chemical and mineral composition. It was formed under completely different conditions from meteor bombing, but it was so complex that we could not study its interaction with the laser and used this knowledge to estimate the actual reaction of regolith.
JIANGSU RICH-OPTO TECHNOLOGY CO.,LTD
Operation Center is located in Zhenjiang, close to Shanghai, which specializes in R&D, manufacturing 3D printer. RICH-OPTO has established R&D centers in Beijing and the U.S.A. The Sino-USA team has extensive experience in electronics, optical technology, material engineering, software and fine mechanics. We have world-class R&D machines for optical detection, microelectronic test and additive manufacturing. Relying on ISO9001 Quality Management System, Rich-Opto has launched high precision SLA/LCD 3D printers with 12 Sino-USA patents, with all the performances reaching the world-class level, according to characterizes of each application industry.