Space.com (April 16, 2010)
"Future astronauts might end up living in a moon base created largely from lunar dust and regolith, if a giant 3-D printing device can work on the lunar surface.
"The print-on-demand technology, known as D-Shape, could save on launch and transportation costs for manned missions to the moon. But the concept must first prove itself in exploratory tests funded by the European Space Agency (ESA)
" 'We will make very basic printing trials in a vacuum environment to verify if this is possible,' said Enrico Dini, chairman of Monolite UK Ltd and creator of D-Shape.
"Dini's D-Shape has created full-size sandstone buildings on Earth by using a 3-D printing process similar to how inkjet printers work...."
"This 6-foot-tall (2 meter) gazebo was built with D-shape 3-D printing technology. The monolithic sandstone structure was made of about 200 thin layers and is shown unfinished (left) and after a week of finishing by hand. It was designed to look like a micro-organism called Radiolaria. The structure in the background, overhead, is the printing device. Credit: D-Shape"
Making shelters out of local materials (mostly) is a really old idea. Euro-Americans, including my ancestors, who moved into central North America didn't haul lumber and roofing material with them. The first shelter one of my forebears built was a sod hut, cut into the ground. The insulation was great: but he upgraded to a log cabin pretty quickly.
I don't know if the phrase, 'log cabin on the moon' will catch on, but that's what this article is discussing, essentially.
Technologies for building 3D models through a sort of printing process is new - or not, depending on your point of view:
- "Rapid Prototyping Primer"
William Palm (May 1998), revised 30 July 2002, Penn State Learning Factory
D-Shape looks like a fine technology, if you want to make a six-foot gazebo shaped like a Radiolaria. It's probably got other uses, too.
If it works in a vacuum, I'd say that it could make a lot more sense to ship one of those things, with a power supply and the binding material, than it some other methods. That's a big 'if,' of course: which is why the thing's being tested.
Interesting times, these that we live in.