3D Printed Moon Structures Foster+Partners & European Space Agency

The future is seemingly closer than once thought, if Foster+Partners recent partnership with the European Space Agency is to be a meter. Now, after years of progressively upping the scope to which we use 3D printing- from model making, to airplane parts to organs and now buildings, 3D printing is proving that it’s finally grown up. And it could truly be a game-changer. One of those Renaissance to Modern sort of jumps.

Arch2o Foster+Partners & European Space Agency - 2Courtesy of  Foster+Partners

The plans call for the use of a massive printer created by Monolite UK, named D-Shape. This large-scale printer is easily transported and can be assembled by only two people; it prints with sand and added proprietary catalysts, and produces a sort of artificial marble, with very little waste. This marble-like material is more structurally sound than Portland Cement, requiring no steel reinforcement and requiring very little manual labour. With this method, the partnership plans to print weight-bearing dome structures on the moon. The construction materials are sourced directly from the moon’s soil. Monolite UK founder Enrico Dini states,

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Courtesy of  Foster+Partners

First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into‘paper’ we can print with… 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 meters per hour, completing an entire building in a week.

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Courtesy of  Foster+Partners

The structures will be printed with an internal geometry similar to a bird’s bone, with small, hollow cellular networks creating cumulative strength. An outer dome structure protects against solar winds and micro-meteorites, and will contain, incorporated within it, a pressurized living zone designed be Foster+Partners. As proof of concept, a 1.5 tonne test block was produced, showing the cellular structure and methodology.

Courtesy of  Foster+Partners