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ESA and Lithoz 3D print fake moon dust into screws and gears for use on the moon

Nov 22, 2018 | By Cameron

ESA and Lithoz 3D print fake moon dust into screws and gears for use on the moon

Getting people to the moon is hard enough, but lugging up all of their supplies, tools, and instruments is just as costly because it all comes back to the cost of fuel. Every screwdriver and bracket adds weight and takes up space, so engineers in the field are always looking for ways to reduce the mass of anything in or on the rocket. One of the most common ideas is to make parts in space and on the moon from moon dust, or lunar regolith. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been experimenting with 3D printing with lunar regolith for a few years and their most recent results are the most detailed parts produced from the cosmic material yet.

ESA materials engineer Advenit Makaya reports, “These parts have the finest print resolution ever achieved with objects made of regolith simulant, demonstrating a high level of print precision and widening the range of uses such items could be put to. If one needs to print tools or machinery parts to replace broken parts on a lunar base, precision in the dimensions and shape of the printed items will be vital.”

Austrian company Lithoz is responsible for the hi-res 3D prints. Lithoz has been developing, operating, and selling professional ceramic 3D printers since 2011 so they were a prime choice to work with simulated lunar regolith. Their LCM (Lithography-based based Ceramic Manufacturing) technology is a twist on SLA 3D printing, where photopolymers mixed with compounds such as aluminum and zirconium oxide are cured by directed light, layer by layer. The parts are sintered in an oven afterward to harden.

They did the same with the regolith and produced beautiful screws, gears, and nozzles. Johannes Homa, CEO of Lithoz added: “Thanks to our expertise in the additive manufacturing of ceramics, we were able to achieve these results very quickly. We believe there’s a huge potential in ceramic additive manufacturing for the Moon.”

By using the dust of the moon, colonizers could fabricate replacement parts, tools, furniture, and even their housing. That means not only huge savings on rocket fuel as photopolymers are very light compared to cement, but also increased comfort and safety for the colonizers because they wouldn’t have to wait for parts to be shipped from Earth when they think of a new solution to a problem or when they’re faced with an emergency.

This research was supported through ESA’s Discovery and Preparation Programme, whose activities are forward-looking and involve feasibility studies and demonstrating how new technologies can be used for space exploration. Many feasibility studies end with unfavorable results, so when these high-quality ceramic 3D prints came out of the machine, those researchers likely enjoyed a sigh of relief and excitement.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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Read more http://www.3ders.org/articles/20181122-esa-and-lithoz-3d-print-hi-res-ceramic-parts-from-moon-dust.html