Mars habitat concepts feature 3D-printed composites
NASA has declared Mars the next tangible frontier for expanding human presence and the space agency has released a report detailing how it will reach the red planet in the 2030s. Since it will take plenty of ingenuity and originality to allow astronauts to live on Mars, NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, held a $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3D-printed habitat for deep space exploration. The design competition challenged participants to develop architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities 3D printing offers to imagine what habitats on Mars might look like using this technology and in-situ resources.
NASA recently announced the winners of the design competition. Teams were judged on many factors, including architectural concept, design approach, habitability, innovation, functionality, Mars site selection and 3D print constructability. I read up on the finalists and found composites was involved in several of the designs.
The runner-up was the team Hybrid Composites, which is a multidisciplinary group of experts who are conducting research in architecture, digital fabrication, computation, material science, additive manufacturing, robotics, mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. The team’s approach was to pursue the use of composite materials and robotic fabrication techniques to challenge and go beyond the current cement based 3D printing approaches. The group’s proposal is a combination of a 3D-printed composite lattice that is extruded through robotic arms, serving as structure, and inner layers of robotically formed composite shells as high performance enclosures.