Scientists master 3D printing of useful objects from "unearthly" materials

An astronaut who will go to the Moon or Mars on a conditional tomorrow will not be able to take with him a bag of cement, or a ton of steel blanks, or equipment for their processing. Its main tool will be an industrial 3D printer, and local soil and pebbles will fit as raw materials. But earthlings are already learning to work with them.

A group led by Ramil Shah of the University of Washington is working on new printed material that is 90% lunar regolith or Martian dust. The remaining 10% are biopolymers and solvents so that the substance remains plastic during operation. But once the print is complete and dry, you should end up with a solid, reliable item.

The less additives for raw materials are needed, the more initial components can be captured from the Earth. NASA has developed and certified powders that mimic natural fossils outside our planet. A lot is demanded from the scientists who work with them. For example, to provide plasticity at the level of rubber, so that the space "wrench" can be rolled into a ball to save space or cut into strips and weave a lace from them in an extreme situation.

The further from the Earth, from warehouses and shops, the incredibly increases the value of each nut, sensor and just a piece of plastic that can be converted into something useful. New 3D printers for space, ideally, should print anything and everything so that pioneering astronauts can get by with scarce supplies from home and use whatever they find in new worlds. Even when it comes to unsightly dust under the boots of the spacesuit.