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NASA’s Martian 3D printing prize

August 10, 2018

Zopherus’ winning design (Credit: GCR)

The five winners of the space agency’s Habitat Centennial Challenge, which sought 3D printable designs for habitations on Mars, have been revealed.

The competition challenged teams to construct a model of a 3D printed habitation that could function in the conditions on the Red Planet, and could support four people living there for one (Earth) year, according to Global Construction Review.

Designs were required to take into account pressure resistance, heating and thermal insulation, structural strength, air filtration, and energy generation.

Arkansas-based team Zopherus submitted the winning design, which involved a landing craft capable of crawling around the surface until it finds a level site to seal itself to, before printing; after printing, it rises up and moves a short distance away before printing another, “a process that resembles a chicken laying an egg.”

AI SpaceFactory of New York were runners-up, with the vertical design made from a recyclable thermoplastic called PLA, which has the lowest coefficient of thermal expansion among plastics.

Jackson, Mississippi’s Kahn-Yates was third, with “a printed structural layer giving way to a high-strength plastic layer that lets the light in,” whilst SEArch+/Apis Cor came fourth, and Northwestern University of Evanston came fifth.

NASA’s partner in the challenge was Bradley Unviversity’s Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology; the College’s Dean, Lex Akers, said: “The virtual levels allow teams from high schools, universities and businesses that might not have access to large 3D printers to still be a part of the competition because they can team up with those who do have access to such machinery for the final level of the competition.”

For the next stage of the competition, scale models will be produced.

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