Lancaster, California — August 27, 2015. On May 16 of this year, America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and NASA announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition to design and build a 3D printed habitat for Mars exploration. Over 160 teams entered, and 30 Finalists have been selected to have their designs featured at this year's New York Maker Fair on September 26-27. Among those chosen finalist is RedWorks, a team out of Lancaster, CA working towards building the first shelters humans will inhabit when settling the Solar System.
The 3D Printed Habitat Challenge is part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, and is structured so as to advance 3D printing construction technology which is essential to create habitats for the first humans on Mars, as well as sustainable housing technologies for Earth. "Winning concepts and products will help NASA build the technical expertise to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, such as Mars,” according to AmericaMakes’ press release, “On Earth, these capabilities may be used one day to construct affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to conventional building materials.”
RedWorks is a small, but eclectic team that entered the Challenge in early June of this year. Its approach to habitat design takes lessons from ancient architecture, natural structures, and even the micro-home movement. RedWorks is creating a habitat that will take full advantage of 3D printing technologies for the first settlement on Mars. By using long established architectural concepts in concert with new adapted organic construction technologies the team is designing not just a habitat, but a system that can adapt to take full advantage of existing constructs in the landscape. RedWorks envisions a habitat that could cap off the opening to a lava tube, caldera or crevasse, pressurize and eventually build into the expanded structure. Such a system would greatly reduce the cost to give the first Martians a community from which to explore the planet.
3D printing is playing a great and growing role space, and RedWorks envisions their entry into the Challenge as a flagship program for future 3D printing technologies that could serve a variety of industrial applications. The demand for larger and more nimble satellite networks necessitates flexible manufacturing technologies, bringing mass customization to space. Those same technologies will be essential for humanity's settlement of Mars and beyond. Where every pound of material can cost tens of thousands of dollars, a flexible manufacturing system that can provide shelter and tools from on-site materials is essential for lowering costs and therefore increasing access to new frontiers in space.
The Centennial Challenges Program is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about the Challenge and RedWorks, visit: