Scientist from Washington State University has transformed simulated Mars rock into a 3D-printable “high-performance substance.”
In a blog post, the researchers claimed the development might allow key equipment and rocket parts to be made on Mars, overcoming challenges connected with transporting huge payloads there.
WSU professor Amit Bandyopadhyay says 3D printing is necessary for manned space missions since we can’t bring everything from Earth. “We can’t go back for anything we forgot.”
Mars-based 3D printing
Carrying hefty items into space is both difficult and expensive. According to the blog article, it costs $54,000 for a NASA shuttle to deposit 1 kg of stuff into Earth’s orbit, let alone Mars.
Anything that can be created in space or on-planet would save weight and money, plus astronauts would need a way to fix it on-site.
To generate a workable material, the researchers heated simulated Martian rock dust and a titanium alloy to almost 2,000 degrees Celsius with a high-powered laser.
The scientists found that a blend of 5% rock and 95% alloy was lighter and stronger than titanium alloy alone.
Small weight reductions can save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Future 3D printing techniques may employ more Mars-native rock.
“[Our approach] offers you a stronger, harder material,” said Bandyopadhyay.
“This proves that [developing composites suited for 3D printing] is achievable, and maybe we should look in this direction since it’s not only generating weak plastic parts but robust metal-ceramic composite components that can be used for any kind of structural elements.”