A team competing in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge worked with Techmer PM to develop materials that could one day be used to house human visitors to Mars.
Teams of citizen inventors are participating in the competition to innovate technology to support deep space exploration and also advance Earth-based construction capabilities. A partnership between freeform 3D printing startup Branch Technology and architecture firm Foster + Partners, collaborating with Techmer, won third place in the most recent level, which involved 3D printing a structural beam using plastics and simulated Martian soil.
The team also took first place in the previous level, creating a truncated cone and cylinder from the material they developed. Next, they will be tasked with printing a dome structure for mechanical testing.
The idea is to enable customizable habitat options using locally available materials and potentially recycled plastics.
"If you think of a place like Mars — but also it could be remote places on this planet — if you try to build a structure, you'd have to send all these tools and materials and so on," said John Manuck, Techmer's CEO. "But if you could 3D print the structure, of course the 3D printer, you'd have to send that there, and some of the raw material, but then it can produce a whole range of products."