Building in space? How Australian researchers are leading the way | Kanebridge News
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Building in space? How Australian researchers are leading the way

By Robyn Willis
Thu, Aug 25, 2022 12:15pmGrey Clock 2 min

3D printing could be the future of construction in remote regions, including space, according to research underway at the University of NSW. Dr Kate Dunn from the School of Built Environment is investigating ways to combine materials endemic to site, including mud brick and hemp, with robotics and large-scale 3D printing.

Together with Associate Professor M. Hank Haeusler, Director of Computational Design (CoDe), and Master’s student Alex Tohidi, Dr Dunn will research the material processes and optimal design for building in remote areas, including in space, as part of a memorandum of understanding signed with Melbourne-based 3D printing firm, Luyten.

Transporting materials and machinery to site is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome for building in remote areas such as the moon.

“3D printing building components using site-specific materials is one way to circumvent this,” says Dr Dunn. “Computer scripts can direct the 3D printing of complex architectural structures made from materials, such as clay and soil, even regolith, a material found on the Moon’s surface.” 

Work has already begun on the test site at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station in western NSW to look at the impacts of introducing fibres such as hemp, straw and bamboo to optimise the material for construction. Using readily available, local materials eliminates the need for delivering concrete, gravel and other heavy materials to site.

At the same time, Luyten is developing a lightweight, compact 3D printer ideal for transportation that is capable of printing large scale structures able to deal with rough terrain.

“Australia’s perfectly suited to this. It’s hugely sustainable,” Dr Dunn says. “The biggest problem with those traditional processes is that they’re super labour-intensive. But if we can use technology to speed those processes up, it becomes a much more affordable and feasible means of building things in Australia and around the world.”



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