3D printing is potentially of great use to lunar exploration. Weight is a key constraint in space travel and the ability to create structures in situ, using lunar materials and solar power could bring lunar colonisation one step closer.
While the idea of 3D printing structures in space using lunar soil and solar energy seems like science fiction, the technology of tomorrow is swiftly becoming the technology of current trend thanks to the EU-funded REGOLIGHT project. The project has developed techniques to take a ground-breaking proof of concept, established by the European Space Agency, one step further.
The REGOLIGHT (Sintering Regolith with Solar Light) project will now recreate the experiment through trials to see how well the technology works under representative lunar conditions: vacuum and high-temperature extremes. The idea of replicating the result in a vacuum seems to be particularly challenging, however a paper the project recently published in ‘The Journal of Aerospace Engineering’ reports their finding that a vacuum environment has a positive effect on sintering. But the new device REGOLIGHT has created allows the thickness of each layer to be regulated through the number of auger screws.