|Depicted is the prototype with nylon centered rock hammer designed by the team at Curtin University. (Image source: Curtin University).|
There are no Home Depot stores on Mars. "On Mars, I do not believe that people can afford the luxury of earth's production culture, at least at the beginning of life on Mars," said Dr. Qassim Saad, head of product design at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, told Design news. "The industry as a whole must take into account all sources used (from raw material, energy consumption, people, power or space absorbed by machines) and actively adapt and adapt processes, while at the same time enabling the living and working environment of Mars to create a liveable place and people to meet all their needs. "
Simply put, the ideas that drive designs for Mars are fundamentally different from those that stimulate design for commercial sales. All designers and engineers take into account the durability of the products they are working on, but usually these ideas must fit into the specific business results of their customers, such as budget, marketing or consumer-motivated planned aging, Saad says.
Saadi is the leader of a team of Curtin University students who have designed a digital library of physical tools and implements that can be 3D printed on Mars and edited on-the-fly, depending on a large number of factors related to with the environment on Mars. Eventually, the team tested one of its designs and used an HP Jet Fusion 3D printer to create a prototype based on nylon hammers using AutoCAD.
The project was carried out as part of HP's Mars Home Planet project, which wants to re-examine life on Mars from the perspective of sustainability and affordability. Not surprisingly, one of the central themes is 3D printing. The project invited researchers to propose, create and virtually experience an advanced civilization on Mars, which could be a new home for a million people. Participants were asked to imagine "blue sky" questions, such as "What is the future for mobility?" Or "What is the future of housing?" And answer them with ideas and designs.
Imagine Tools on Mars
It is difficult to design for Mars if you are not really on Mars. Design a tool on earth and you can make a prototype to see if it is well in hand and the job is right. Designing for Mars is still theoretical. NASA is still struggling to produce a viable space suit for Mars because space suits used in microgravity are far too heavy to carry on Mars.
Watch out for those lemons, Astronaut Scott Kelly; they each cost $ 2,000 to launch. (Source image: NASA)
There is also the problem of costs. Nobody knows exactly how much it would cost to launch objects and send them to Mars, but previous space missions can give us some ideas. For the cargo of the space shuttle, the price tag was about $ 10,000 per pound. The cost per pound for the Cygnus spacecraft of Orbital Science is approximately $ 43,180. When astronaut Scott Kelly was happily digging in front of the camera on board the International Space Station, he kept about $ 30,000 of fruit.
While the next generation of launch vehicles can reduce costs somewhat, the distance to Mars still means a high price tag. Reusability becomes a valuable feature for any launched tool, widget, utensil or personal object. For this reason, 3D printing objects as needed on the spot will become an important element to make both the travel and human occupation of Mars economically feasible.
Dr. Saad told Design news That one of the first challenges in creating the toolkit was to get a grip on the scale of the HP project's mission.
"The assignment we received was lifestyle design on Mars & # 39 ;, which was a challenge in its expanse but also rewarding because it gave us the freedom to approach the assignment holistically from a design perspective," said he. "Among other things, we did an anthropological analysis of what we thought society would be on Mars, along with conceptualising what future production methods would be on Mars."
Take only what you need
The idea of "bringing everything you might need" will not work with the exploration of Mars, for which you have to take into account every microgram. To save on weight, space and materials, the toolkit of the Curtin team can be printed, used and recycled in something else when needed. The students have created a digital library with physical objects, arranged according to the complexity of the production, the frequency of use, the portability and the importance.
"If an object has a surplus to requirements or is bulky, it can be honed into a basic shape and reused, and then reprinted when it is needed again," said Saad. & # 39; An example is if you & # 39; moved & # 39 ;. The cost of moving all your earthly assets would be inefficient, so the process of recycling and rebuilding would take place. "
The nylon-based prototype of a rock hammer is made to demonstrate the production method instead of a specific choice of material. The end product of a stone hammer that will be printed on Mars in the future may not use nylon, but can have a composite structure with different densities and materials throughout the product. It can then use the least amount of material for the greatest strength and functionality. The point is to be flexible, because nobody knows exactly how the printing conditions will be on Mars, or what materials are available. Because there are no petrochemicals on Mars (unless the available research data has missed something big), settlers should produce derivatives for plastics by growing plants such as hemp, flax or other plants that can be processed into the materials needed for printing.
"With a border like Mars, we do not know exactly what the conditions will demand, but the model would be adapted to the experiences of the users via CAD modeling on Mars," Saad said. "It is a concept called" constructive dissatisfaction ", where processes are continually improved when something is done. & # 39;
What about gravity?
Of course, like all blunt power tools, the hammers we know are functionally in accordance with the rules of gravity of the earth. The gravity of Mars is about a third of the earth, and although a hammer may seem like a relatively simple tool, it becomes not so simple on a planet with a different gravity. Tools such as sledge hammers, for example, need a certain amount of mass to function properly.
It is not just the use of the tools that have to be reviewed; it is the printed matter itself. Powder-based systems, for example, struggle in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station because they rely on powder that remains silent during use. (In May, NASA announced that it has renewed a Small Business Innovation Research contract with Microgravity 3D printer developer Made In Space and its extreme business environment Vulcan Hybrid Manufacturing System.)
Although it is believed that Mars' gravity would support powder-based printing, no one is entirely certain. In fact, the environment of Mars can offer some advantage for additive manufacturing, according to Dr. Saad. Filament printing may have more freedom without the need for as much supporting material as needed on Earth, which could lead to Mars-native designs that simply would not work on Earth.
One thing is certain: additive manufacturing off-world will in every way differ from AM on Earth, from design to material to process. Hybrid techniques will have to be developed that use both additive manufacturing to create almost reticulate components and traditional production methods to make machines and make finished products that can be recycled after use. Today it is a rock ham. Tomorrow it might be the spatula that serves your lasagna.
Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and began her long career as a writer and editor of technology and science at Appleton & Lange, the now deceased medical publication department of Simon & Schuster. Later, as editor of the telecom magazine Customer Interaction Solutions (the current magazine Customer), she became a well-known voice in the contact center sector. Nowadays she is a freelance writer specialized in production and technology, telecommunications and business software.
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