Last week I wrote about the rapid development of 3D printer technology, and some of its many applications. Today the BBC has an article about another possible use – creating tools and objects in a possible future Moon colony. Transporting material and equipment to the moon is extremely expensive, with every kilo adding to the cost.
Instead of physically transporting items to the moon, digital files could be transmitted (or stored in an “object-bank” on the spacecraft), describing the object’s properties. This could then be produced by 3D printers.
Most 3D printers use a process called additive manufacturing, which builds objects layer by layer using a polymer resin. To avoid sending large quantities of this resin to the moon, NASA speculates that moon rock could be used as the raw material. A high powered laser would melt the rock, which would cool after “printing” to create a solid object.
This process would not only reduce the costs of such missions, but make replacement parts and equipment available much more rapidly as they would not need to rely on storage space becoming available on the next re-supply mission – which could be months away. (BBC article)