German Scientists will Test Laser 3D Printing on the Moon
A group of German researchers is working on a project of laser 3D printing with lunar regolith. The experimental system will be tested by 3D printed lunar rovers built in partnership with Audi, the German car manufacturer.
This is a guest contribution by Egor Driagin, Chief Marketing Officer at Top 3D Shop
This cute little rover hasn’t been on the Moon yet, but already appeared on a big screen. The machine could be seen investigating a disturbance in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant.”
The lunar rover was designed for the Google Lunar X Prize competition by the Germany-based team Part-Time Scientists, sponsored by Audi. Hence the name of the machine is Audi Lunar Quattro. The winner of the competition hasn’t been announced, but the efforts of the engineers won’t be wasted: in 2021 a couple of rovers will be sent to the Moon, one of their tasks will be demonstrating the possibility of laser 3D printing using lunar regolith.
The moon rover was almost entirely 3D printed from aluminum and titanium, and now it will be able to print with moondust. Since 2015, the researchers of the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) and the Institute of Space Systems (IRAS) of the Technical University of Braunschweig have been working on the special laser system under the scope of the MOONRISE project. The scientists have to prove that the task can be completed by a laser system that weighs no more than 3 kg and has a volume of a large juice package.
“We want to bring a laser system to the moon, which is supposed to melt moon dust, the so-called regolith. We would thus take the first step to take Additive Manufacturing, that is 3D printing, to the moon, ” says Niklas Gerdes from the LZH.
There are no plans to construct buildings on the Moon, although in the long term laser 3D printing may be used not only to melt down raw materials, but also build larger structures such as highways. In theory, it is possible to create sturdy road pavement out of melted regolith and design an effective lunar transport connection system. However, we have a long way to go before the projects of such scale are available. For now the main goal of the scientists for the next couple of years is to prove the efficiency of this approach. The economic efficiency is obvious: sending 1 kg of shipment to the Moon costs about €700,000, so it will be much cheaper to use the materials at hand to build future moon colonies.
The rovers will be shipped to the Moon by the new high-performance launch vehicle Ariane 64, as PT Scientists and European space company Ariane Group agreed on cooperation for lunar missions. The rocket will transport the landing and navigation module ALINA to the lunar orbit. Alina has a capacity of up to 300 kg and will be carrying two lunar rovers. Besides the technology of 3D printing, the scientists are planning to test the ability to turn lunar materials into water, oxygen and fuel for future colonies.
Guest post by Top 3D Shop