3D printer could build moon bases

Apr 19, 2010 by Lin Edwards weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- An Italian inventor, Enrico Dini, chairman of the company Monolite UK Ltd, has developed a huge three-dimensional printer called D-Shape that can print entire buildings out of sand and an inorganic binder. The printer works by spraying a thin layer of sand followed by a layer of magnesium-based binder from hundreds of nozzles on its underside. The glue turns the sand to solid stone, which is built up layer by layer from the bottom up to form a sculpture, or a sandstone building.

The D-shape printer can create a building four times faster than it could be built by conventional means, and reduces the cost to half or less. There is little waste, which is better for the environment, and it can easily “print” curved structures that are difficult and expensive to build by other means. Dini is proving the technology by creating a nine cubic meter pavilion for a roundabout in the town of Pontedera.

The printer can be moved along horizontal beams and four vertical columns, and the printer head is raised by only 5-10 mm for each new layer. The printer is driven by a computer running CAD software and prints at a resolution of 25 dpi (dots per inch). The completed material resembles marble, is stronger than concrete, and does not need iron reinforcing. The printing process can successfully create internal curves, partitions, ducting, and hollow columns.

Dini also has lunar plans for the D-shape, and is in discussions with La Scuola Normale Superiore, Norman Foster (a UK architecture firm), and Alta Space, as part of the Aurora program run by the European Space Agency (ESA), to build a modified D-Shape that could use lunar regolith () to build a moon base. Dini will carry out trials in a at Alta Space’s facility in Pisa to ensure the process is possible in a low-atmosphere environment such as the moon.

Dini said his ultimate dream is to complete Guidi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which has been under construction since 1882 and which is not expected to be completed until 2026 at the earliest.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video shows 3D printing of a laser scanned wooden statue, 1 meter tall, scaled down and printed on Zcorp Z450 3d Printer. Z Corporation is another company that develops and manufactures 3D printers.


Explore further: Tiny UAVs and hummingbirds are put to test

More information: D-shape: d-shape.com/

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User comments : 48

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akademy
4 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Now that's a clever idea.

Anyone know how heavy this sand and glue material is? First thing you may have to "print" could be a crane to lift it off the printer...
mysticfree
4.5 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2010
Would a printer jam result in a crumbled-up house?
zevkirsh
4 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
i was just talking about this yesterday. the printer would have to be managed by an on=site construction worker ( 3 shifts of 8 hours each) but it would still result in drastically lower labor costs none-the-less and could operate 24/7 until the building was complete.

this is just the beginning.
z
Tombo
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
You can find the review of the same in Blueprint Magazine also.

http://www.bluepr...uilding/
zevkirsh
1 / 5 (8) Apr 19, 2010
oh yea this is the dumbest title for the article. this robot is intended for building structures on earth not on the moon. seriously , retarded title.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2010
oh yea this is the dumbest title for the article. this robot is intended for building structures on earth not on the moon. seriously , retarded title.

Because it's really that big a jump to use regolith instead of cement....
ThanderMAX
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Anyone know how heavy this sand and glue material is? First thing you may have to "print" could be a crane to lift it off the printer...


Due to Moons low gravity it will not be a problem
jj2009
3 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2010
that's amazing. I would surely like to live in one of these structures created on the moon.. until a meteorite smashes it to pieces that is.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2010
"Dini also has lunar plans for the D-shape, and is in discussions with La Scuola Normale Superiore, Norman Foster (a UK architecture firm), and Alta Space, as part of the Aurora program run by the European Space Agency (ESA), to build a modified D-Shape that could use lunar regolith (moon dust) to build a moon base. Dini will carry out trials in a vacuum chamber at Alta Space’s facility in Pisa to ensure the process is possible in a low-atmosphere environment such as the moon."

Title is correct. Not a lot of specifics, but since most (all?) testing to date has been terrestrial, if you want ANY info terrestrial is what you get.
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
I'm guessing that the stone-age-looking buildings only look like that for the artistic value... hopefully this can build large, more practical structures?
jimbo92107
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
On the Moon's surface you inflate a large, interconnected network of balloons, then spray on a coating of cement made from local materials. A team of Earth-controlled robots could do it. The toughest part would be installing air locks. How does this device improve on that simple idea?
Coldstatic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
i don't think we are talking sky scrapers here but could see multi level structures coming out of it, it all depends on the integrity of the material
Auxon
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Now that's a clever idea.

Anyone know how heavy this sand and glue material is? First thing you may have to "print" could be a crane to lift it off the printer...


You could print large objects in place. Instead you raise the top layer, building up, rather than lowering it down.
billyswong
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Using 3D printer to construct a building in one take... It's an interesting idea but can it sustain earthquakes?
DaveGee
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2010
Would a printer jam result in a crumbled-up house?


Yea... and besides that.... Have you seen the insane price HP demands for new printer cartridges!?!? On top of that, it seems like once you print 4 or 5 walls it complains about needing a fresh cartridge!
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
I have been aware of 3-D printers from the start, and envisaged a scaled-up version to build subdivision developments here on Earth. The parts would be trucked in and assembled on-site. The way of the future, I predict.

It is only natural to extend the idea to the colonization of other bodies in the solar system. In fact, it is an absolutely great way to go about it because it makes use of raw materials on the building site, allowing for more square feet per project.

Do not let this idea die!
PinkElephant
3.8 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2010
The big problems on the Moon are:

1) Large variation between day vs. night surface temperatures (on the equator, the minimum is 100 K while the maximum is 390 K).

2) Radiation (including solar wind, and cosmic rays.)

3) Meteorites (including micrometeorites and space dust impacting at orbital velocities.)

4) Lack of atmosphere (so, need for hermetically sealed, pressurized dwellings.)

With these challenges in mind, I think constructing bases on the Moon's surface is a demented and deranged idea, suitable only for pulp science fiction.

Any real, livable, reliable, and practical Moon base would be subterranean: similar in concept to bomb shelters or subway stations on Earth.
otto1923
3 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2010
Any real, livable, reliable, and practical Moon base would be subterranean: similar in concept to bomb shelters or subway stations on Earth.
I agree. Send up a few robotic nuclear-powered earth borers and watch them work. The technology has been building habitats far below the earths surface (in secret) for decades now. No really. Two cubic miles of living space under the Denver airport. Look it up.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Using 3D printer to construct a building in one take... It's an interesting idea but can it sustain earthquakes?
Thin-wall concrete structures can be suprisingly strong and can be engineered to resist lateral forces. This tech might work better initially in fabricating sections in an onsite plant for assembly into a larger structure.
GDM
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
There are several web sites that deal with 3d printing and/or fabrication and you can build small devices yourself. If this can be used in a micro-gravity environment (pressurized application jets?) using refined regolith, we need to put these on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars as soon as we can, and as many as can be teleoperated, including maintenance tasks, although on Mars, this could be a rather slow process. There is nothing difficult about this type of construction.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
I first saw the process several years ago on the "jetsons" cartoon.
But, it is a good idea for building in sites with poor access.
Fly in the printer and use local raw materials to build fireproof dwellings almost anywhere.
Yes
4 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Would I be allowed to make this device for myself, or do I need to pay royalties now?

Will 1 or 2 dpi not be enough for printing buidings.

Printing the roof will always lead to round rooftops.
Yes
4 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
and round windows. But that could even be nice.
eddieo
Apr 19, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jsa09
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
they could build a square building and square windows just wanted to prove they could do curves.

Adding colour would be an improvement, you could have a normal three colour plus black and clear containers to add to the sand material.
GDM
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Check out contourcrafting.org, fab@home, zipblocks.com and zcorp.com for some really cool stuff. You can build any shape, build in plumbing, fabricate high-tech "lego" blocks that lock into place. Lots of research going on and these are just the "model A" versions.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
Adding colour would be an improvement, you could have a normal three colour plus black and clear containers to add to the sand material.


Why would you? You only need color on the surface - not in the entire volume. It's much cheaper to use one material and then paint the surfaces you want to later on.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
Why would I?
To save the expense of painting of course!
And, if you chip or damage it you can't see the mark.
Wish they could print car bodyshells like that, it would save me a fortune.
tubey
1 / 5 (6) Apr 20, 2010
It is said by some in the know that military technology may be 1000 years more advanced than public domain technology. We are dribble fed little bits of decades old ideas that are no longer considered classified.And we think of them as wonderful new breakthroughs. I think the military complex has been using gigantic versions of this 3d building printer tech to make many structures on the moon and mars already. They may have already surpassed the ordinary sand and glue materials and are capable of forcing atoms to fuse into stronger than the best steels we have and make everlasting structures oblivious to decay. They may well have perfected nuclear force binding methods that force these molecules to bind in an unbreakable form. Massive skyscrapers and other buildings could be made somewhere and simply dropped into position on a premade foundation.Do not dismiss this idea because we really do not know what the secret miltary tech wizards can do.
tubey
1.5 / 5 (6) Apr 20, 2010
It is said by some in the know that military technology may be 1000 years more advanced than public domain technology. We are dribble fed little bits of decades old ideas that are no longer considered classified.And we think of them as wonderful new breakthroughs. I think the military complex has been using gigantic versions of this 3d building printer tech to make many structures on the moon and mars already. They may have already surpassed the ordinary sand and glue materials and are capable of forcing atoms to fuse into stronger than the best steels we have and make everlasting structures oblivious to decay. They may well have perfected nuclear force binding methods that force these molecules to bind in an unbreakable form. Massive skyscrapers and other buildings could be made somewhere and simply dropped into position on a premade foundation.Do not dismiss this idea because we really do not know what the secret miltary tech wizards can do.
Caliban
1 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2010
The utility, efficiency, and straight-up gee whiz futuristic glamour of this technology is undeniable, but it would have to be limited to sites that were inhospitable to human labor.

Otherwise, we are faced with the elimination of literally millions of jobs, and therefore livelihoods, at least terrestrially, without _very_ controlled deployment.

Unless something happens to drastically reduce our population, then this seems like a very destructive and destabilizing technology if put into use on a widespread basis here on Earth.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2010
I'd jump at the chance to build my home in the shape I want to (instead of being confined to rectangular structures and being charged _horrendous_ amounts for anything that doesn't conform to rectangularity!)

This tech is one of the steps towards eliminating ALL work - a step we should take sooner rather than later.

otto1923
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2010
There are several web sites that deal with 3d printing and/or fabrication and you can build small devices yourself. If this can be used in a micro-gravity environment (pressurized application jets?) using refined regolith, we need to put these on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars as soon as we can, and as many as can be teleoperated, including maintenance tasks, although on Mars, this could be a rather slow process. There is nothing difficult about this type of construction.
I am unclear on the binder. Can a binder be formulated onsite or would you need to bring it with you? The binder of concrete is cement in approx. 1/3 ratio, in addition to water, which is a significant amount of stuff. Perhaps energy could fuse the regolith? It still seems preferable to tunnel for permanent habitats like PinkElephant says. Habitable voids can also be created with nukes as was demonstrated during Project Plowshare.
random
3 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2010
Would a printer jam result in a crumbled-up house?


Yea... and besides that.... Have you seen the insane price HP demands for new printer cartridges!?!? On top of that, it seems like once you print 4 or 5 walls it complains about needing a fresh cartridge!


So true... This is all just one big scam to sell us more overpriced ink. I'm wise to their shenanigans.
GDM
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
Otto1923: just off the top of my head, I recall that the essential ingredient of portland cement is calcium, which was found at all of the apollo landing sites. Assuming (!) that asteroids contain similar deposits, it should be feasible to refine concrete there as well. Also regolith can be micro-waved (as in your local oven) to form bricks at a temperature supposedly less than needed to brew a cup of tea. Lunar habitats in lava tubes is an excellent idea, and although project plowshare was deemed a success, current treaties prohibit nukes in outer space. So, unless you are planning to be a renegade, we shouldn't use them. They aren't really necessary, and the material would be better used in reactors for electricity generation. No show stoppers here, let's go!
otto1923
4 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2010
Concrete is a little more complicated than that:
http://en.wikiped...d_cement
-Curing is a complex chemical process. There are different Types, and I suppose the researchers who proposed this have ideas on just how it could be done. Got any links?

Also for this?
Also regolith can be micro-waved (as in your local oven) to form bricks at a temperature supposedly less than needed to brew a cup of tea.
We will be using nukes in space. Treaties are made to be superceded. Why do you think we went to the trouble of making those 5000+ tons of weapons-grade fissionables for? Global suicide? Come on, that was just the excuse.

A borer can be launched as a self-contained unit requiring no additional materials which would need to be mined and refined onsite. Supposedly there are units which can fuse their own walls. These could be set to work tunneling into crater walls and create MUCH more sealed and protected space than surface construction could provide.
otto1923
5 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2010
I'd jump at the chance to build my home in the shape I want to (instead of being confined to rectangular structures and being charged _horrendous_ amounts for anything that doesn't conform to rectangularity!)

This tech is one of the steps towards eliminating ALL work - a step we should take sooner rather than later.
So youre saying that a socialistic welfare state where millions of unemployed subsist on perpetual welfare while machines do more and more work for us, is inevitable, and that its a good thing?? Really??? I agree.
GDM
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
Otto1923: Instead of a link, I sent you a PM. I agree with the borer, but it may require a heavy lift vehicle, or alternatively, be difficult to build on-site. The existing outer space treaties are too vague to be worth much, but I would rather not have every nation going paranoid with nukes. It will probably happen anyway, but I don't want to speed it up.
otto1923
4 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2010
Waterless concretes have been studied among other methods (sintered regolith, etc) I have a couple documents available, one from Rutgers, one from NASA/Colorado School of Mines.
(from PM)

-You mustve gotten these pdfs online? Heres one:
http://ares.jsc.n...049.HTML
I agree with the borer, but it may require a heavy lift vehicle
Or assembled and launched from orbit:
http://www.reacti...obs.html
GDM
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
Otto: There are too many papers to post, but I recommend checking out this NASA bibliography at http://est.msfc.n...7157.pdf
It takes a couple of attempts to download the PDFs from the NASA technical reports server at http://ntrs.nasa....Ntx=mode matchall&Ntt=19930007712
otto1923
4 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
Otto: There are too many papers to post, but I recommend checking out this NASA bibliography at http://est.msfc.n...7157.pdf matchall&Ntt=19930007712
Danke
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
@antialias
I'd jump at the chance to build my home in the shape I want to (instead of being confined to rectangular structures and being charged _horrendous_ amounts for anything that doesn't conform to rectangularity!)
They have this process:
http://www.mortar...oncrete/
-Ive also seen sprayed foam used-
Yes
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2010
How would they do in the earthquake zones where building codes with iron bars are the law?
antialias
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2010
So youre saying that a socialistic welfare state where millions of unemployed subsist on perpetual welfare while machines do more and more work for us, is inevitable, and that its a good thing?? Really???
Sounds good to me. Everyone gets the same - sounds fair to me. No one has to work? Sounds good to me (I have plenty of things I could occupy my time with instead of slaving 24/7 for someone else)

Employment is not the defining character of being a human (a fact 99% of the world's population seems to have forgotten).
Caliban
4 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2010

Employment is not the defining character of being a human (a fact 99% of the world's population seems to have forgotten).


Until we can find a way to un-invent "money"- it's a fact that 99% of the world's population depends, for their very survival, upon not forgetting.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
Employment is not the defining character of being a human (a fact 99% of the world's population seems to have forgotten).
Right, it's making babies, which all too many of them have not forgotten.
@Caliban
Welfare checks and food stamps are money. Pay me not to work and I will duly reinvest in the economy, by spending it. Software already does what I used to do. So I should be writing software to put more people out of work?
Husky
5 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2010
I would think tunneling with walls of locally produced reinforced concrete be the most logical option for a grand scale durable moon base to both deal with radiation and meteorite hazard and vacuum issues, the wait is really for selfreplicating machines to make this all costeffective and have the guestroom with jacuzzi ready before we send actually humans there.
Zuls
not rated yet Apr 26, 2010
I think a large segment of the population will be blindsided by this kind of technology. Robotics of this kind will be a massively disruptive force in society in the very near future. Any job that can be done faster and cheaper by a robot will. In this kind of environment education is super important -- without which people will be left in the dust. One encouraging thought is that putting this kind of tech in everyone's hands will democratize the process of building/creating all kinds of new things. See reprap.org
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2010

@Caliban
Welfare checks and food stamps are money. Pay me not to work and I will duly reinvest in the economy, by spending it. Software already does what I used to do. So I should be writing software to put more people out of work?


Not sure I understand your meaning. Explain, bitte.