3D printer on moon or Mars could make tools from local rocks

No blue cheese: Manufacturing with moon rocks is feasible, researchers have shown.

(Credit: Tim Hornyak/CNET)

NASA is already experimenting with 3D-printing components for rockets to Mars, but the fun doesn’t have to stop at liftoff.

Researchers at Washington State University and NASA are suggesting that rocks on the moon or Mars could be used to print useful objects like tools or replacement parts.

A study published in the latest issue of Rapid Prototyping Journal describes an additive manufacturing process called “laser engineered net shaping” (LENS).

The laser-assisted technique can be used to create metal parts from computer-aided design (CAD) files. The study marks its first use with simulated lunar material.

Along with their collaborators, WSU’s Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, a husband and wife research team in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, experimented with 10 pounds of simulated lunar regolith provided by NASA. They managed to create structures from… [Read more]

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