The research paper reveals the information about novel basalt fiber-reinforced ABS-plastic to be used for 3D-printing on Mars. The mechanical properties of this new material and its X-ray shielding characteristics were investigated.
The research was carried out by South Dakota State University and financed by NASA as part of X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.
The primary goal of this paper was to develop a novel structural material for 3D printing a habitat off-earth, in particularly on Mars. An ideal material would be strong, stiff, impact resistant, and provide radiation shielding for the astronauts and equipment inside the habitat. The researchers made a decision to use a thermoplastic composite material since it is easy to 3D print.
In addition, the material should contain as much as possible locally available (on Mars) materials to minimize the amount of building supplies that need to be shipped to Mars.
Mars can provide the mission with plenty of basalt raw material so the researchers have decided to use basalt fiber. Moreover, it is able to be recycled and turned back into the feedstock. This fact has attracted some manufacturers in Europe that are developing this process for the automotive industry.
ABS-plastic (thermoplastic material based on Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) was used as a matrix. This material is often used for 3D printing by Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) method. ABS is impact strong, resistant to acids, alkali, oils and moisture and can be operated at the range of temperatures from -40°C to +90°C.
During the experimental tests basalt fiber reinforced ABS filament was produced at 5 different fiber ratios and used to 3D print samples for testing.
Mechanical testing showed that strengths and stiffness improved until 40% fiber ratio, at which point stiffness still increased slightly, but strength was reduced.
Digital radiography revealed that the composite material was evenly mixed during the extrusion and deposition processes. X-ray images also showed that the higher the fiber content ratio, the more X-rays were shielded by the material.
All the components of a new composite material can be recycled that is a distinct advantage. Finally, studies should be conducted related to the recyclability of ABS packaging materials then used as an ABS-Basalt construction material for 3D printing.
A new material was used to 3D print various objects such as wrenches, gears and clamps. Thus, ABS-Basalt can be used to make tools, spare parts or components on-site.
Translated by Olga Yurchenko