By Elton Gomes
To support a future foundation on the Moon, researchers from the European Space Agency (ESA) have experimented with 3D printing and the application of false moon dust on various objects such as screws, gears and a coin, hoping that the dust Real mole could one day be used to replace parts on a lunar base. The 3D objects were printed in an Austrian company Lithoz.
"These pieces have the best print resolution ever achieved with objects made of regolith simulator, which demonstrates a high level of printing precision and extends the range of uses to which these elements could be applied," said Advenit Makaya, engineer of ESA materials. declaration.
Makaya added: "If one needs to print tools or pieces of machinery to replace broken pieces in a lunar base, the precision in the dimensions and shape of the printed elements will be vital."
ESA scientists partnered with Lithoz to develop a 3D printing technology that initially mixed artificial regolith with a special type of glue: this glue hardens when exposed to light. Regolith is essentially a simulation of lunar dust. The mixture of regolith and glue was printed in 3D in a particular form and baked in an oven. The process was similar to how ceramics harden inside an oven.
"Normally, your printing process is based on materials such as aluminum oxide, zirconium oxide or silicon nitride. "What we have shown here is that it can also work with crude regolith, which is a collection of several different types of oxides, mainly silicon oxide, but also oxides of aluminum, calcium and iron, among others," said Makaya.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. A 3D printed object is created by the use of additive processes. In an additive process, successive layers of material are gradually added until the object is created. Each of these layers can be viewed as a horizontal cross section of the eventual object. 3D printing allows you to produce complex shapes using less material compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
Why are scientists printing 3D objects with fake moon dust?
Both the private space agencies and the government have expressed serious intentions about the construction of a base inhabited by humans on the Moon, with plans that are being developed in this regard.
However, establishing a base on the moon requires a large amount of fuel, carrying capacity and money. Building a lunar base from scratch will require a large amount of materials, which means that it would be extremely expensive to transport several parts of the Earth to the Moon, particularly because repairs will require backup parts.
This is why researchers came up with a more sustainable option. Instead of bringing things, they could simply be made on the moon using a regolith and a 3D printer. The construction materials could, therefore, be created easily and economically in the Moon itself.
What possibilities could it open?
The project is still in its experimental phase and there are still many tests to be done, which includes testing whether 3D objects are strong enough to withstand the stresses of real-world use.
But if the project works, the possibilities are certainly exciting. 3D printing of objects using fake moon dust could facilitate existence on the moon. It could also make future lunar missions less dependent on Earth.
Elton Gomes is an editor of Qrius.