The prospects of the Incus project for 3D printing metal components on the lunar surface appear promising.

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An Overview Of 3D Printing On The Moon

The year 2021 has brought many exciting advancements in 3D printing on the moon. From a joint 18-month project involving the European Space Agency (ESA), OHB System AG, and Lithoz to explore the feasibility of 3D printing and zero-waste workflow on the moon, to NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awarding ICON a $57.2 million contract to develop an off-world construction system, the future of 3D printing in space is an exciting one.

The ongoing advancements in 3D printing for the lunar environment offer three primary goals. Firstly, the goal is to be able to utilize recycled metal waste from missions and satellites previously left on the moon to produce high-quality 3D printed parts so humans can settle on the moon in a more efficient and sustainable manner. Secondly, the best possible machines need to be developed to create and test different prototypes suitable for future lunar applications. Lastly, 3D printing must produce permanent, reusable structures using lunar regolith, meaning that the existing challenges presented by the moon’s environment must be tackled head-on.

The project undertaken by Incus was testament to the advances currently made in 3D printing on the moon and in space in general. With the Hammer Lab35 3D printer, Incus was able to successfully recycle titanium powder to create high-quality parts with strength comparable to that of metal injection molded titanium parts (1000-1050 MPa). This project has proven that LMM technologies have an immense capacity for sustainability and zero-waste workflow.

Meanwhile, ICON’s work has focused on being able to 3D print permanent, reusable structures using lunar regolith. Working with architecture firms BIG and SEArch+, the construction 3D printing firm has made great strides towards achieving this goal and has cut down the inconsistencies seen between the 3D printed parts and those created through traditional methods.

As the scope of space exploration continues to grow, 3D printing on the moon and in space has an incredibly bright future. Not only will it enable the development of new machines and structures to support human life in space, but it will also allow us to reduce waste by reusing scrap metal from missions already completed and tackle the unforgiving environment of the moon head-on. The manufacturing sector is moving towards a more digital age with 3D printing technology becoming available. Over the next decade, 3D printing advancements, from advanced materials to improved scanning technology, will drastically change the industry as we know it.

Unlike traditional manufacturing, 3D printing does not require the use of intricate tooling, and instead relies on a range of printers ranging in complexity from desktop models to industrial systems. 3D printing can produce parts with complex shapes and intricate designs, making it a game-changer for mass-customization and on-demand manufacturing.

The cost savings of 3D printing makes it all the more attractive, with no need for expensive raw materials or labour input. Similarly, 3D printing has a much shorter lead time than traditional manufacturing processes, reducing delivery risk.

The benefits don’t end there. With no limits to print size or complexity, 3D printing can produce parts that are impossible to manufacture with traditional methods. This has unlocked a range of opportunities for prototyping and production on a large scale.

The 3D printing industry is rapidly evolving, and staying up to date with the latest innovations and developments is crucial for staying ahead of the competition. To stay informed about the latest 3D printing news, subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter or follow us on Twitter, or like our page on Facebook. For a deep dive into the industry, subscribe to our Youtube channel, which features discussion, debriefs, video shorts, and webinar replays.

Looking for a job in the additive manufacturing industry? Visit 3D Printing Jobs for a selection of the latest positions available.

The possibilities are endless, and in the coming decade we will see 3D printing become a key player in the manufacturing sector.


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