3D printing ceramics with simulated moon regolith

Researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) printed finely detailed ceramic parts using simulated lunar regolith.

Regolith is a layer of loose heterogeneous material covering solid rock consisting of various types of oxides, but mainly silicon oxide. The project aims to use lunar regolith to 3D print parts on moon missions.

The parts were printed by Austrian company Lithoz. Normally, their print process is based on materials such as aluminium oxide, zirconium oxide or silicon nitride. However, the experiment showed that the process can also work with raw regolith.

The regolith is ground and sieved down to particle size, after which the grains are mixed with a light reacting binding agent. The material is printed layer for layer, before it is exposed to light to harden it. Finally, the object is sintered in an oven to bake it solid.

The researchers believe the project shows that there is a huge potential in ceramic additive manufacturing for the Moon.

As a next step, the parts will be tested to check their strength and mechanical properties. Similar parts could one day be employed in a lunar based without the need for replacements from Earth.

Photo: ESA