Basalt composite 3D-printing project comes first in NASA Challenge

Basalt composite 3D-printing project comes first in NASA Challenge

AI SpaceFactory has won the first place in 3D Printing Habitat Challenge for the biopolymer basalt composite 3D printing solution.

NASA’s 3D Printing Habitat Challenge started in 2014 with over 60 challengers worldwide. They suggested brilliant ideas and embodied them into new materials, forms and solutions. Strict competition rules were dictated by the conditions under which the extraterrestrial habitats are supposed to be built rather than experts’ caprice.

First, the habitat interior space must be about 100 sq.m so that four astronauts could feel comfortable. There is a strict rule to use on-site recyclable materials available on the planet because it is too hard and expensive to deliver components and equipment to other planets. Therefore, only local feedstock and 3D-printing.

The structures are expected to be built fast with a significant display of autonomy and ensure safety to the inhabitants. Well-explored environmental conditions of our neighbouring planets Mars and the Moon became the base for the projects. The challenge was divided into three phases: the Design Competition, the Structural Member Competition and the On-Site Habitat Competition.

Different phases allowed the experts to entrust the teams to solve various 3D-printing problems and attract teams having different experience.

The third phase challenged the teams to build a one-third-scale printed habitat. Each team employed robotic construction techniques that allowed minimal human intervention, modelling autonomous exploration missions.

The final milestone of this competition is a culmination of extremely hard work by bright, inventive minds who are helping us advance the technologies we need for a sustainable human presence on the Moon, and then on Mars,

said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges.

We celebrate their vision, dedication and innovation in developing concepts that will not only further NASA’s deep-space goals, but also provide viable housing solutions right here on Earth.

AI SpaceFactory completed the project with nearly no human assistance in 30 hours, using their innovative biopolymer basalt composite, a biodegradable and recyclable material derived from natural materials found on Mars.

Once the 3D printing completed, the structures were subject to NASA’s testing to asses the materials, their tightness, durability and strength, which finished with AI SpaceFactory’s MARSHA project  recognized the most successful.

It’s light, and it’s strong, like an airplane. That’s going to be very important for these types of habitats,

said Lex Akers, Dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology at Bradley University.

Exploring the conditions essential to sustain life on other planets, AI SpaceFactory saw the potential to introduce modern sustainable construction technologies on the Earth.

The team decided to introduce ready-to-use, zero-waste, 3D printing technology using recyclable basalt composite on the spot and launched TERA project.

The finalists of 3D Printing Habitat Challenge included other teams employed basalt fiber for their projects but it was AI SpaceFactory that became the best in the concept realization.