Regolith-to-Resin Processor and Mining Bots
LassoBot and Multi-purpose MissionBot
Balloon Gantry System and Extrusion Nozzle
Solar Crafting is a light-weight and low-cost additive manufacturing solution for crafting off-world structures. Combining the advantages of both Solar Sintering and Contour Crafting, this approach presents an exciting new take on off-world 3D printing: the ability to print structures from only Sun and Sand.
Using a concentrated solar sintering beam, surface materials are superheated into a molten deposition resin. Once heated, this resin can be deposited into a variety of rigid, freestanding structures without the need for a separate binding agent. By depositing resin using our balloon-assisted gantry system, structures can be printed at sizes never before thought possible.
This approach marks a significant shift away from traditionally heavy metal gantry systems, and with no Earth-brought binding agent, offers large mass reductions during transport. The components that make this new printing method possible are detailed below.
Prior to printing, several robotic systems are deployed to prepare the surface location for construction. Affectionately nicked named R2RP, MissionBots, and LassoBots, each machine serves a specific preparation purpose.
Multi-purpose MissionBots are the first on the scene to clear debris from the construction site and secure the telescoping LassoBot Controllers. The LassoBots regulate the size and concentration of the focusing-lens, as well as control the height and position of the balloon gantry system. Finally, Mining Bots and R2RP (Regolith-to-Resin-Processors) are deployed to collect, process, and deliver surface regolith to the print tray.
The vast majority of these machines already exist or are being developed in some capacity. In order to modify existing machines for the Solar Crafting approach, partnerships will be formed with members of the private industry. Suggested industry partners include 3M, DuPont Kevlar, Caterpillar, Solartran, and others.
Solar Concentrator/ Focusing Gimbals
In space exploration, mass reduction is the name of the game. Our primary objective is designing the Surface Habitat Printer (SHAB Printer) was to provide NASA with a repeatable process for manufacturing off-world habitats. Traditional Contour Crafting gantry cranes weigh as much as 28,000 kilos - at $20,000/kilo to Low-Earth-Orbit, the cost of sending this type of system to Mars is simply not feasible, and certainly not scalable.
The Solar Crafting approach utilizes a balloon-assisted gantry to both collect solar energy for the sintering beam, as well as to support the print tray and extrusion nozzle. Compared to traditional additive manufacturing techniques, the balloon-assisted gantry provides mass reduction of nearly 90%.
This light-weight system provides considerable cost reductions, and paves the way for scalability. To build larger shelters, the SHAB Printer needs only a larger cable system, not a larger gantry all together. This is not to say, however, the balloon gantry will be small - to support the print system, the Solar Crafting balloon will be 150 ft long by 90 ft in diameter!
Balloon Gantry System