Solar-sintered regolith specimens
Enabling & Support

3D printing of a model building block for a lunar base outer shell

29/06/2017 892 views 5 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future
 Programme:  GSTP  Achieved TRL:  4
 Reference:  G617-153QT  Closure:  2017
 Contractor:  DLR (DE)

 
This activity is aimed at developing an additive manufacturing process to transform lunar regolith into a construction material, using only concentrated solar energy, without involving any binder. This is intended for applications in the construction of lunar settlements using in-situ resources.

Objectives
The objective is to develop a 3D-printing process for sintering lunar soil simulant with the use of concentrated solar energy. The intended first result is the production of brick-sized model building blocks of a lunar base outer shell. This includes process parameter optimisation and characterisation of the lunar soil simulant and the consolidated materials.

Achievements and status

  • An experimental setup for additive manufacturing of lunar regolith simulant by concentrated solar light has been built. The process has been demonstrated on lunar regolith simulant using a solar furnace and a solar simulator.
  • The influence of process parameters (substrate, scanning pattern, scanning speed) on the structure of the sintered regolith material has been studied.
  • Several lunar regolith simulants have been characterized (composition, granulometry, sintering behaviour).
  • The consolidated material has been characterized (structure, thermomechanical properties)  
  • Three brick-sized demonstrators have been produced.
Schematic view of 3D printing setup at DLR solar furnace (courtesy of DLR)
Schematic view of 3D printing setup at DLR solar furnace (courtesy of DLR)

Benefits
This activity demonstrates the feasibility of a process involving only lunar soil and concentrated solar light to produce a construction material for protective structures in lunar settlements. No binder needs to be brought from Earth. 

Next steps

  • Follow-up Horizon2020 project ongoing (Regolight).
  • Follow-on technology development activity targeted for study of the lunar environment effects on the process performance and the consolidated material.

 

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