3D printing with moon-dust

Researchers from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University have built a 3D printer that can use sorted (simulated) Lunar regolith (moon dust) to print out "crude" objects. This is the premise of a novella I'm working on, so it's pretty exciting to see:

Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, using simulated lunar regolith that are analogies to moon rocks, have used 3D printing to create a number of crude objects. The simulated regolith, found on Earth and supplied by NASA, contains silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxides but behaves like silica when melted by a laser. Once the regolith is melted, a 3D printer creates objects out of it layer by layer.

Using moon rocks shaped by 3D printers as building material or simple spare parts and tools would vastly decrease the expense of building and maintaining a lunar settlement. 3D printing also has considerable promise for Earth bound construction.

Researchers build objects with 3D printing using simulated moon rocks [Examiner] (via /.)


  1. Amazing, inevitable and very cool.
    But how are you going to fly a great big laser and batteries up there? Would solar cells ever create enough juice to melt rock? Markus Kayser, a student from the Royal College of Art in London solved these problems very elegantly. (Big magnifying glass)
    And he made a rather nice film about it.
    Celestial, robot-built, glass cathedrals for everybody :)

    1. The higher ambient temperature, lack of atmosphere, and nearly constant light source on the moon would make the solar lens printer very interesting.

      Does anyone know how different the lunar sand is? Are there areas identified with high concentrations of metals? 

      1. Lunar soil contains very small fine grained particles. They are very sticky and IMHO ideal for making structures. My guess is that you could build a transparent tube with hollow walls. Place it flat on the surface, fill it with fines, aim a mirror at it and get it really hot for a couple of days. Then remove the tube and reassemble it at one end with a small amount of overlap.

  2. This concept was also something of an obsession for the architect Nader Khalili who, in the 90s, presented it to scientists at NASA and Los Alamos. His approaches to the concept derived from the ancient Persian building technique of fired adobe which he had been developing and advocating for use in the building of homes for the poor in the developing world from early in his career. (a technique based on building homes of adobe brick then filling them with combustible materials set alight to bake the building whole as its own kiln) His pursuit of the technology in a space context was premised on its developing world use–his personal experience with developing world governments leading him to conclude that in order to make the technology acceptable there it had to be seen as ‘high tech’ and ‘western’ in order to seem legitimate to these nation’s bureaucrats. So selling it to NASA was also selling it to the Third World. 

    Khalili is most well known, however, for his later invention of SuperAdobe–a variation of earth-bag dome construction which was also of much interest to NASA for a time. Khalili also proposed the use of solar thermal vitrification of sand dunes in California for the creation of naturalistic sea walls. Khalili’s exploration of this technology is outlined in the wonderful autobiography Sidewalks On The Moon. It’s an interesting narrative wandering from the dusty streets of revolutionary Iran to the native ruins of the high desert New Mexico countryside and NASA’s cloisters of aerospace engineering. For a book ostensibly about architecture, it’s very romantic given Khalili’s other life-long passion; the classic Persian poets whose words seemed to guide him through life. 

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