Mars X-House Plans to Demonstrate 3D Printed Prototype

SEArch+ and ApisCor are running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their autonomous 3D printer.

The engineers at SEArch+ and ApisCor placed first in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge’s this February, the Construction Level 2 phase of the competition requiring 3D printed samples. The samples were required to hold a seal, maintain integrity in extreme temperatures, and test as strong as possible. ApisCor’s mission is to “create fully autonomous equipment that will be able to print buildings on Earth and beyond” and their method is the development of machines that can 3D print structures directly at sites. Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch+) is the design side of the partnership, with a mission to “conceive, investigate, and produce innovative ‘human-centered’ designs which enable human beings to not only live, but thrive in space environments.”

The group is now raising funds to build a 1/3 scale prototype for the Mars X-house, a 3D printed structure that will be built at a live NASA demonstration in late April 2019. Testing in this next phase will include a smoke test to check how air-tight the structure is, an impact test that uses Olympic shot puts from varying heights to check structural integrity, and a crush test that will test the structure to failure from a pure downward force. These tests take place at Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center in Peoria, Illinois. Improvements for the next phase include adding mobility to the printer, obtaining local pneumatic systems and material silo, and testing the next generation of robots.

SEArch+ / ApisCor’s team is seeking only $35,000 for this campaign, which generally says to me that they’re looking more for awareness of their project instead of funding for this project. The comment section of the campaign says that the competition is sponsored by NASA but the team funds its own machines and material. It’s fascinating to think that there are six teams working with NASA to develop the methods we’ll someday use to build habitats on Mars. This project combines design, engineering, construction, building information management, and a healthy dose of the sense of wonder that comes from space exploration. Information about the Construction Level 3 phase of the Challenge can be found on Bradley University’s website along with information about each team and promotional material. The SEArch+ / ApisCor crowdfunding campaign runs until March 6, 2019.