3D printed screws from fake moon dust

Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space cover

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Researchers in Europe have successfully printed screws and gears using simulated moon dust.

These printed materials weren’t carbon-based plastic or metal, according to a statement from the ESA, but rather a sort of lunar ceramic. “Ground and sieved down to particle size, the regolith grains are mixed with a light-reacting binding agent, laid down layer-by-layer, then hardened by exposing them to light,” according to the statement. “The resulting printed part is then sintered in an oven to bake it solid.”

In other words, all these little gadgets had production histories closer to the dinner plate in your cupboard than the screws holding that cupboard together.

This is still an experimental project, so there’s a lot more testing to be done — including whether these parts are strong enough to stand up to the stresses of real-world use.

They might find these parts aren’t hard enough for their use as screws and gears, but finding a way to produce these parts in space rather than having them shipped from Earth will be essential for making any future space colony viable.



  • wayne

    Very interesting!

    Haven’t tracked back to the original paper. Do we know what the “light reacting binding agent” is?

    Pivoting– there has recently been great progress in “cold sintering” techniques, where the material is processed anywhere from room-temp to 200 C., avoids hi-temp requirements and long bake times, but is just as structurally strong. Utilizes water and pressure. Works with a broad range of inorganics and ‘composites,’ which the Moon has a bit of, lying around.

  • wayne

    ah, here we go….

    Cold Sintering techniques
    Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • 1% of the lunar highlands is Ni-Fe meteorite bits. Magnetically separate these, use parabolic mirrors to melt. Remove the dross. Cast & machine or 3D print. Strength should not be a problem.

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