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

The future is seemingly closer than once thought, if Foster and 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 and Partners & European Space Agency - 2Courtesy of  Foster and 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,

Arch2o Foster and Partners & European Space Agency - 3

Courtesy of  Foster and 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.

Arch2o Foster and Partners & European Space Agency - 6

Courtesy of  Foster and 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 and Partners. As proof of concept, a 1.5 tonne test block was produced, showing the cellular structure and methodology.

Courtesy of  Foster and Partners

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