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LIQUIFER Systems Group Gmbh

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Regolight

Sintering regolith with solar light – Solar sintering of building elements for habitats with lunar regolith simulants in a vacuum chamber

Top animation: Final design for interlocking building elements and
their application for a lunar base scenario.

Date
November 2015 – April 2018

Client
EU – Horizon 2020, within the topic of ‘3D printing – advancement of TRL’

Consortium
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft – Und Raumfahrt EV, Germany; Space Applications Services NV, Belgium; LIQUIFER Systems Group GmbH, Austria; Compagnie Maritime D Expertises SA, France; Bollinger Grohmann Schneider ZT GmbH Austria

LSG team
Waltraut Hoheneder, Barbara Imhof, René Waclavicek, Molly Hogle

credit: LIQUIFER Systems Group, 2018

Abstract

Future human activity on the lunar surface will use 3D printing to build infrastructure from lunar soil using the Sun as the only source of energy. Today this technology is considered disruptive; tomorrow it will be the standard. The RegoLight project investigates the sintering process of lunar regolith simulants by means of concentrated sun light in order to prepare for future lunar missions for building infrastructure (levelled terrain, dust shelters, launch pads etc.), and structural components for lunar habitats. Solar sintering of regolith is currently at TRL3 , demonstrating the ability to build a regolith ‘brick,’ in a laboratory set-up, with a moving table, in a solar furnace. RegoLight aims at enhancing this specific additive layer manufacturing technique by further characterizing the material and environmental parameters for sintering different types of regolith, by developing a movable printing head capable of accurately pointing a concentrated solar beam, and for the incremental deployment of the building material (regolith) on the building surface. Based on the mechanical properties of solar sintered regolith, architectural scenarios and applications are developed taking into account the benefits of additive layer manufacturing and novel construction concepts for lunar gravity.

A detailed Finite Element Model provides insight for a possible lunar architectural scenario using the newly developed technology. With a concurrent engineering approach, sample structures are printed having been derived from ‘big picture’ scenarios, and ‘bottom up’ approaches at the same time. The project objective is the development of a regolith solar sintering device breadboard which will be validated in a relevant environment (TRL5). The parts printed in a thermal vacuum chamber will undergo mechanical properties tests to build a database and FEM analysis for validation of the concepts.

Top video: Development and demonstration of mobile printing head during the
month of August 2017. RegoLight partner, Space Application Services, tests the
Mobile Printer with lunar soil simulant and normal sand. The sintering process of
samples for material tests and interlocking building elements uses focused sunlight
under natural ambient conditions.

 


Video above: RegoLight explores the use of a concentrated beam of light to heat
powdered material to form a coalesced solid without reaching temperatures hot
enough to melt the medium. A solar-sintering oven at the German Aerospace Center (DLR)
serves as the starting point for the RegoLight project.