Life on the moon may still be a far-away concept, but that hasn’t stopped space agencies from preparing for it. The European Space Agency (ESA) has recently partnered with Incus, OHB System AG, and Lithoz GmbH in a joint project to develop and test 3D printing in a micro-gravity environment reminiscent of the moon.
The project stems from the need to provide spare parts on the moon that have not been flown in through Earth. The new technology uses recycled powders from scrap metals that are readily available on the Moon to produce new materials.
Incus’ Lithography-based Metal Manufacturing (LMM) process is a form of 3D printing technology for creating advanced metal parts that uses the principle of photopolymerization. The companies deem this a very sustainable type of 3D printing for this specific application.
“Lithographic techniques such as the ones developed by Incus and Lithoz allow the combination of high precision 3D printing with high-performance metals and ceramics, while still remaining extremely resource-efficient. While these concepts have been successfully demonstrated on Earth, the activities of such projects are crucial for filling technological gaps and enabling the implementation of additive manufacturing in a space environment,” said in a statement Dr. Martin Schwentenwein, Head of Material Development at Lithoz.
The project will last a total of 18 months and will be used to assess the feasibility of processing scrap metals available on the Moon’s surface to produce a high-quality final product using an eco-friendly zero-waste process. If successful, future missions on the moon will significantly reduce their dependence on Earth for everything from creating habitats to research material.
The project will mean that future moon settlers will be able to 3D print everything they require for their journeys requiring them to carry less materials with them in their spacecraft. This will make them independent and resourceful and make for easier and lighter journeys to the moon as base materials will not have to be flown in from Earth but will rather be created right on the Moon.