5 mins read 29 Nov 2021

3D Printing a Lunar Settlement

Australian 3D printing building company Luyten has teamed up with UNSW to develop capabilities to build structures on the Moon. 

Concept image of Luten 3D printed lunar base. Credit: Luyten.

A historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between cutting-edge Australian 3D printing building and construction company, Luyten and the University of New South Wales (UNSW). This partnership will work towards fast-tracking the development and delivery of 3D printing technology to build on the Moon.

“We are absolutely delighted and extremely honoured to be partnering with UNSW to make building on the moon possible. UNSW is renowned for its academic leadership and world-class research and we couldn’t be more pleased to be working together,” said Luyten co-founder and CEO, Ahmed Mahil.  

“Our combined expertise and passion for innovative and exceptional building outcomes involving a range of intertwined disciplines will help the human race to expedite colonisation of the moon and other planets. Our partnership will solidify Australia’s leading role in the world’s fast-developing space economy.”

Luyten’s mission since launching in 2020 has been to make construction easier and more sustainable. Luyten works towards reducing time and cost to build, waste generated in the construction process, and the impact of building activities on the environment. 

The company’s cutting-edge 3D printing capabilities have become a global success story, as companies around the world scramble to purchase their printers. It is in response to this global demand that Luyten has decided to expand the scope of this technology to encompass building on the Moon.

“When we developed our groundbreaking 3D concrete printers, we thought we would be solving building and construction issues across the world – but with discussions currently taking place with people across the space industry we are now looking at solving building and construction issues on the moon,” said Mr Mahil.

The project is called Project Meeka as Meeka means Moon in Noongar. The 3D printer developed specifically to undertake construction on the Moon is called Platypus Galacticas.

“This printer is agile and transformable. It can transform from a size of 3m x 4m in height and width to 9m x 12m in height and width, capable of producing a structure of up to 9m x 12m in height and length. The printer can be set up in less than 30 minutes,” said Mr Mahil.

“We have designed the printer for compactness using lightweight composites for its structure and robotic transforming technology, making it ideal for space transportation purposes.” 

Associate Professor Matthias Hank Haeusler, the Discipline Director of the Bachelor of Computational Design (CoDe) at the Australian School of Architecture + Design (Built Environment), UNSW stated that the MOU will ensure that Australia’s greatest minds are involved in capacity building for lunar construction.

“With Computational Design one has a method to design protective shells for habitats on the Moon – with a foremost consideration on requirements for human habitat in mind. Computational Design allows to feed in scientific knowledge on how to protect humans from solar and cosmic radiation into a script that generates a shelter with the required 80 plus centimetres of solid material while optimising the structure towards the print process,” said Associate Professor Haeusler.

Constructing a lunar settlement is not only elaborate but will require significant technology.

“First, rovers with ground-penetrating radar will assess the location’s structural capacity to build.  Meanwhile, other rovers with ultrasonic props and excavation capabilities will start harvesting lunar regolith. In order to source building materials from the regolith and then characterise its mechanical properties, the excavation rover will deposit collated lunar dust at a regolith sorting reservoir where it will be processed to a finer size.  The transforming robots will then initially construct shell structures at the building site,” Mr Mahil explained.

 Associate Professor Haeusler states “This information can become part of the Computational Design script and the design will respond to the specific material properties identified on-site.  Thus, each habitat is customised for the material on-site such as the radiation and the printing process, and fed directly to the Platypus Galacticas 3D printer.”

“After sourcing 3D printable material, the Platypus Galacticas 3D printer will start printing on the compacted lunar surface.  The extrudable materials will then be passed through the printing nozzle and form the layers of the structures,” Mahil continued.

“Moon regolith will be the primary building material of the printed structures due to its abundance. Based on the material properties of the specific type of regolith, concentrated microwaves will be used to sinter the regolith into a printable form.”

 Space technologies underpin a number of daily conveniences that we expect such as GPS, internet banking, and weather forecasting. 

“The knowledge we generate for building on the moon can be translated directly into building housing for extreme climates such as heat or for addressing housing issues in remote indigenous communities – both topics we investigate in parallel,” said Associate Professor Haeusler.

“We are proud and excited to be recognised for our technology’s space capabilities and compliances. Our team at Luyten is working hard to remove barriers to construction in hazardous conditions, such as on other planets, by producing reliable technology, and our MOU with UNSW will only bolster this work,” Mr Mahil emphasised.