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Researchers Build Objects With 3D Printing Using Simulated Moon Rocks

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the what-can-you-make-out-of-this? dept.

Moon 59

MarkWhittington writes "It has been a truism among space planners that future space settlers will have to build things on other worlds out of as much local materials as possible, saving the cost of transporting things from Earth to the moon or Mars. Two professors at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University have taken a step forward toward developing that technology using laser enabled 3D printing using simulated moon rocks to create simple objects."

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I'll simulate a moon rocket (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126485)

In your ass!

Too late, the real thing is already there!

Easier conversion gel (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126561)

SIMULATED moon rocks? *sigh* If only Cave Johnson knew about those before it was too late...

Re:Easier conversion gel (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126749)

SIMULATED moon rocks?

Way better than VIRTUAL moon rocks... with the later, one would print those objects in the Cloud.

Whoosh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126761)

Is the sound of portals flying over your head.

3D whoosh to you (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126789)

Is the sound of portals flying over your head.

What? You want to say two different tangents in the same point can't exist? Should be pretty boring to live in a world with a 2D space geometry

Re:3D whoosh to you (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127465)

Smooth 3D curves still have only one tangent in each point. This is also true for higher dimensions.

If you've got a surface in 3D, the tangent is a plane. Again, there's only one.

Or to go completely general: The tangent of a smooth m-dimensional submanifold of an n-dimensional affine space is an m-dimensional affine space. There is only one in each point.

Re:3D whoosh to you (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127657)

Smooth 3D curves still have only one tangent in each point. This is also true for higher dimensions.

By allowing multiple recipients (readers/listeners/etc), a told story - even a /. one - becomes a surface (due to the multitude points of view). Being originated in a single PoV, a tangent is a curve until it becomes another story on itself.
(but I'm not convinced that I want this tangent evolving into a surface)

Re:Easier conversion gel (1)

Gerzel (240421) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126923)

He did. Are you implying that CAVE JOHNSON cuts corners?!

Re:Easier conversion gel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127575)

He did. Are you implying that CAVE JOHNSON cuts corners?!

Corners, edges, sides and lemons! Here at Aperture science we stop at nothing, no object will be left uncut!

Re:Easier conversion gel (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42128621)

He did. Are you implying that CAVE JOHNSON cuts corners?!

He tried rounding them off first, but then Apple found out...

I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126621)

Not 3d laser printing their bases. Where would they get the energy to do this?

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126639)

Windmills?

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (5, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126887)

I'd go with tidal energy. If the moon's gravity can drive tides here, imagine what it can do there!

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126943)

Only if you call it earth tides (it will be earth's gravity that would cause tides in the moon)

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127897)

Why? We don't call the current ones "moon tides", and "Earth tide" has a specific meaning [wikipedia.org] of its own. They're just "tides."

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127015)

no tengo liquids. no liquids on the moon, no tides. sorry.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127339)

The changing tides on the moon are month long solar tides due to the moon being tidally locked to the earth. And the smaller diameter of the moon means that even those tides will be weaker, tidal accelerations being proportional to the distance from the centre of mass cubed.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129659)

Most important there is not enough liquid on the moon to harness any tidal forces.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127479)

I'd go with tidal energy. If the moon's gravity can drive tides here, imagine what it can do there!

Alas, Moon is tidally locked [wikipedia.org] to Earth!

Energy Source Depleted...

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42128629)

But it does librate, so you may get a little tidal energy. Not enough to be useful, but > 0.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126703)

Not 3d laser printing their bases. Where would they get the energy to do this?

Sun [markuskayser.com] ?

Keep in mind:
* the solar energy flux on the Moon's surface is approx equal with the one in Sahara (even a bit better due to no atmospheric absorption on the Moon)
* the "Moon daylight" is 14 times longer than on Earth (true:so is the Moon night)

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (5, Interesting)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126961)

More than a bit better and a significant more of the Sun's spectrum hitting the surface (The atmosphere is very effective at blocking certain frequencies of light.) A minor math error, since nights and days on earth are half a day, nights and days on the moon are 28 times longer, but if you go to the south pole, You can harvest sunlight from mountain tops continuously and benefit from deep dark craters for cold research at the same time. As well all the water on the moon is heavily concentrated at the poles

Initially you would want to send robot construction equipment to the moon and a small nuclear power plant to power the machines that would build the first ore smelters and solar energy collectors. Eventually you would have hundreds of solar collection sites, powering an extensive subterranean habitat that was virtually immune to micrometeorite fall and cosmic radiation (being at the poles also eliminates the fear of fatal solar radiation exposure during solar storms.) The materials in the lunar regolith are perfect for construction, building huge mirrors, building sintered construction material using 3D printing, building robotic component using 3D printing, building smelters and solar furnaces. The materials available are even great for building electronic and photonic hardware. I'd love to architect living spaces on the moon. The biggest issues would be providing earth gravity work spaces so people can spend time in perhaps 1.2-1.5 G for 8-12 hours a day to off set the impact of spending 12-16 hours a day in 0.16 G. The very coolest thing is that in large open spaces, human beings have enough strength in their arms and chest to flap wings that would allow a person to fly. You could literally build a 200 ft high aviary, for people. Because of the low G, you could build powerful mirrors on the moon orders of magnitude larger than on earth. With the seeing conditions that Hubble has and unimaginably big mirrors, we could watch the near sentient life scratching its extraterrestrial behind.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127497)

Initially you would want to send robot construction equipment to the moon and a small nuclear power plant to power the machines that would build the first ore smelters and solar energy collectors.

I think solar energy collectors would be cheaper to put up there than nuclear reactors (note that the nuclear powered space probes do not have a nuclear reactor on board, but radioisotope thermoelectric generators).

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127807)

I'm forgoing mod points to tell you... You're awesome!

I wish you were president.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129045)

Username Genda [slashdot.org] is a known alias for Newt Gingrich [google.com] - it was never going to happen.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42128671)

Wouldn't the unimaginably big mirrors be vulnerable to micrometeorite fall?

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129851)

Wouldn't the unimaginably big mirrors be vulnerable to micrometeorite fall?

The unimaginably big mirrors would most likely be built from mylar. Micrometeors would simply pass right through, leaving a small hole. Imagine the awesome damage of shooting an empty potato chip bag with a high velocity rifle.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year and a half ago | (#42130293)

Or you make a rotating pool of Mercury. Splish.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42132739)

Rotating mercury is a nice theoretical exercise, but kilogram for kilogram, mylar is going to give you a much larger mirror.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year and a half ago | (#42133461)

That and it will all evaporate off in jig time.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42130779)

And that would lead to seven years of bad luck! Better scrap that idea right away.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129435)

I'd love to architect living spaces on the moon.

Prison cells is all they'd be, and I imagine any humans living there would have to be criminals given the option of the Moon or a slow and painful death, much like early transportees to Australia..

No one in their right mind woul choose to live there. At least with Oz you could breathe the air and swim in the sea there, however hellish it was otherwise.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42133249)

Initial habitats, perhaps.

But you also have to remember that the moon has 1/6 earth gravity. Once the initial habitats are made, you can do things with common materials that you simply can't do on earth. A stone roof could hold up 6x as much dirt before reaching the mechanical limits, etc.

You could easily have collosal vertical spaces and grand living accomodations underground; you could build a very nice house, INSIDE the habitat structure, have real windows on said house, and a real view of a low gravity fountain pool with plants living around it, for instance.

"Space age" materials (like 7057 aluminum alloy and pals, which is what you would get on the moon) would get you a lot of utility up there.

The major issue aside from basic habitability (air regeneration, food production, water treatment, atmospheric containment, and radiation protection) would be slow bone loss from the low gravity.

There was some research awhile back involving mice that showed that low frequency ocsillations can promote bone growth. Perhaps putting subwhoofers in the habitats would help alleviate the probem?

Fiction leading life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42133363)

Heinlein's The Menace From Earth describes the joys of self-powered wing flight rather early.

I'm totally with you. Getting out there will get the Stones Rolling...

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127097)

Energy will be a big issue.

Water is another, of course, but that may be available in the form of ice at the poles.

Now sure you have a lot of sunlight available on the moon, but we don't have any machines that run on sunlight. This light has to be harvested and converted into electricity: currently done though methods like solar panels or via steam driving generators.

To get significant amounts of power, you need rather big solar panels. IR+visible spectrum gets you about 1,000 W/m2, most of which is not usable for modern solar panels, so you have maybe 100 W/m2 effective power. To get a 1 MW power source (a bare minimum to do any significant mining/construction/life support/etc) you'd need 10,000 m2 of solar panels installed. And still have half the time no power at all, and other times limited power due to not facing the sun directly. So make that 20,000 m2 of solar panels, and the equivalent in batteries (or other storage) to get through the dark times.

All, or at least a large part of this has to be taken to the moon. You can make your own solar panels, but you'll still have to bring in the machines and raw materials. You can start mining, you'll still need mining equipment and a power source before you can start making more mining equipment, and you first have to find the relevant mineral deposits.

Re:I think they meant build shelter, fuel... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127283)

Energy will be a big issue.

Water is another, of course, but that may be available in the form of ice at the poles.

Now sure you have a lot of sunlight available on the moon, but we don't have any machines that run on sunlight. This light has to be harvested and converted into electricity: currently done though methods like solar panels or via steam driving generators.

Sure, you'll need to first send something capable of harvesting the Sun power. However, once you have some kW (maybe tens of kW?), you can set up something to self-replicate in a reasonable time. Like: extract some volatiles from regolith - like He - and build a Stilling engine working between +600K concentrated and 30K (in the shadow, with enough radiative surface of the heat sink). One can even think of sending a programmable-replicator automaton, powered by a Stirling radioisotope generator [wikipedia.org] (200-300W of power) and, as the first task, replace/supplement the radioisotope heat source with a solar concentrator.

one small meteor to bring back to the beginning (2)

crispytwo (1144275) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126647)

First Post?

This may be one more step towards a replicator.

Also, I think we could use the sun to help out http://www.kidstatic.com/2011/06/solar-3d-printer-egyptian-desert-as-materials/ [kidstatic.com] - wouldn't this be a similar idea?

Re:one small meteor to bring back to the beginning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126739)

Also, I think we could use the sun to help out http://www.kidstatic.com/2011/06/solar-3d-printer-egyptian-desert-as-materials/ [kidstatic.com] - wouldn't this be a similar idea?

I think the correct approach would be to link to the artist's site [markuskayser.com]

Re:one small meteor to bring back to the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127723)

That is really cool.
I wonder what he does with the stuff he makes. Just leaves it in the desert to mess with future archaeologists?

Re:one small meteor to bring back to the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42131123)

I hope it won't be a step towards these replicators... lol...

http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080425065651/stargate/images/3/31/Replicator.JPG

Mooncraft (2, Funny)

jsepeta (412566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42126689)

Minecraft... on the MOTHERFUCKING moon

Re:Mooncraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127477)

You can tell your mommy that you're a big boy now that you can cuss for no reason in every post.

Mooncrete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42126925)

Old idea with new technology. Decases ago it was shown that moon rocks were suitable for making concrete.

Re:Mooncrete (4, Informative)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127149)

Concrete has the slight problem that it requires massive amounts of water. Water is in short supply on the moon, all there is should be reserved for drinking and other essential stuff. This research is in the melting of moon rock with lasers (probably in a powder bed) to manufacture parts. It seems like it behaves approximately like silica, although I do not know whether that's a useful construction material.
Perhaps a sidestep would be "welding" natural moon rocks together to obtain an airtight shell. Then no water is required to build the moon base.
Assuming all the properties are similar to silica it may be possible to create quartz glass with it, allowing for windows.
This lessens the cost of building a base (or maybe a city) on the moon. They are still astronomical, but this is a step in that direction.

Re:Mooncrete (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42130111)

They could use some sort of plastic as the binding material instead of cement (concrete=cement+aggregate (stones))

Re:Mooncrete (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129679)

Concrete is porous too so after it has cured it would need to be sealed.

The new threat to the human race (1)

guspasho (941623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127033)

They can print using simulated materials now? Forget nanomachines, it's only a matter of time before we turn the planet in to a macro-scale grey goo made out of 3D printers!

We already have moon habitat technology (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127115)

Nader Khalili [treehugger.com] already worked out the basics of building moon habitats using lunar materials...

Re:We already have moon habitat technology (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127589)

I'd like to see mr.Khalili build a fire on the moon. You know that they have water up there [wikipedia.org] do you? He'd never get his kindling to light no matter how many moon trees he chops down to build his fire.

Did you know... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127259)

There are 3d printers that use concrete media, and can print you a house?

Re:Did you know... (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129365)

There are 3d printers that use concrete media, and can print you a house?

That's right, using only some detailed blueprints, many tons of reinforced concrete and a team of builders they can "print" you a house in a way that has been almost impossible up to now using only the old-fashioned methods of some detailed blueprints, many tons of reinforced concrete and a team of builders.

Time takes time (1)

PacRim Jim (812876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42127453)

Strictly speaking, it's 4D printing.

Re:Time takes time (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#42129737)

The finished product does not change in the 4th dimension, it would be like calling a plane 3D because you can change your reference point.

Re:Time takes time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42132801)

The product is created in the fourth dimension, is it not?

Re:Time takes time (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#42133555)

A 2d printer makes things that change over two dimensions, a 3d printer makes things that change over 3 dimensions. The object does not change as a function of t, the changes are from external forces unrelated to time. Lets say we have a parallel universe in both our object is isolated from all possible external changes except time. In one universe the object is at time = 1 in the other it is at time=1000000000000000, the two objects would be indistinguishable and so F(t)=F(t+1) and the object does not change in the 4th dimension.

Next patent scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42127757)

x using a 3D printer.

3D printing - it's the new internet.

future (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about a year and a half ago | (#42130245)

The future is starting to look more and more like minecraft...

Re:future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42131675)

So the future is Squared?

naturlich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42134511)

Seems that using regolith is still cheaper than branded cartridges :)

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