News 3D printing
During COVID-19, adaptive technology has become a very profitable alternative to traditional production, which requires huge investments and resources. One of the main benefits is a significant waste reduction.
According to Grand View Research, the global 3D printing market was valued at $11.58 billion in 2019 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 14% from 2020 to 2027. By 2027, there will be 8 million 3D printers worldwide – almost six times more than in 2018. 77% of these will be industrial printers. 3D printing is already being used to create clothes and shoes, furnishings, mechanical parts, and even prosthetics. 3D printers print many parts for the Rutherford engines on the Electron launch vehicle.
Moreover, 3D printing is widespread in aviation. For example, Boeing and Airbus have long been involved in additive manufacturing – where a 3D printer makes a part layer by layer, guided by a computer model. Each Boeing 787 passenger jetliner, for example, has about 30 parts printed using such an algorithm, while the Airbus A350 and A320neo have an entire titanium bracket that connects the wings to the engine.
In 2016, Airbus unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed Thor aircraft, but it is an aircraft model: 4 meters long and weighing 21kg, with remote control.
So how are the parts printed? Simple: the parts are printed from metal (in the form of powder with specific properties), and each 3D printer is designed for a specific kind of metal and cannot print on any other material. First, a device inside the printer deposits a layer of metal powder on a special platform. A laser, which operates according to a pre-set program, then heats and fuses this layer of powder, causing it to harden. The platform is then lowered to the thickness of the layer, and the process repeats. This happens several times – layer after layer. Depending on the size of the part, the process takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
The main advantages of 3D printing are the lightness of parts and environmental friendliness (there is practically no waste during 3D printing).
It is worth noting that 3D technology is far from the ceiling. Relativity Space is planning to launch the world’s first rocket fully 3D-printed into orbit next year. That’s not daydreaming or mere talk – the startup has attracted almost a billion dollars in investment, which is direct proof that it’s achievable.
Today, additive technology is widely used in architecture, with printed parts used to build entire frame houses, making them much cheaper than their conventional counterparts. According to The Guardian, an entire neighborhood in Coachella Valley, California, has been built with such technology. The developer Mighty Buildings claims it saved 95% of the labor time of construction workers.
Returning to the moon theme, we’re actually on the verge of using 3D printing to create certain objects on the surface of the moon using lunar dust. This development will make colonization a lot easier, as there will be no need to take heavy loads and equipment there.
3D printing is a great way to get started on the colonization of the Moon using lunar dust. So why are we so fixated on lunar dust?
The reason is that a lunar base needs to be established on the surface of the satellite to protect humans and scientific instruments from harmful cosmic rays and meteorites. However, transporting concrete and other heavy materials is too expensive. That is why finding a solution to the possibilities of using lunar dust to print on special 3D printers is a hot topic this year. Using this technology will be one of the cornerstones of lunar exploration. After all, they can provide future astronauts with the necessary infrastructure, spare parts, and tools using local resources, all without costly transportation.