NASA just announced the third phase of its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge that seeks to develop and demonstrate capabilities to manufacture, with 3D-printing technologies, a habitat on another planetary body using mission recycled materials and/or local indigenous materials.
The vision includes autonomous construction machines deployed to planetary surfaces to build shelters for human habitation. On Earth, these same habitat construction capabilities could be used to produce sustainable housing where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited. It is envisioned that local terrestrial indigenous materials (gravel, clay, sand, etc.) could be combined with readily available recyclable materials and used to construct durable shelters for human habitation.
The Challenge is divided into phases described below. This document will focus on the requirements and rules associated with the On-site Habitat Competition (Phase 3) only.
Design Competition (Phase 1) – focused on developing innovative habitat architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities that 3D-printing offers. This phase was completed in September, 2015.
Structural Member Competition (Phase 2) – focused on the core 3D-printing fabrication technologies and material properties needed to manufacture structural components from indigenous materials combined with recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. This phase was completed in August, 2017.
On-Site Habitat Competition (Phase 3) – focuses on autonomous 3D-printing of a subscale habitat design (conducted at the head-to-head competition), using indigenous materials combined with recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. In addition, the use of BIM and virtual construction tools and techniques has been included to leverage those capabilities and advance the state of the art in that field. While the phase 3 competition builds on the material and manufacturing process development and structural testing from the phase 2 competition, Teams who did not participate in phase 1 or phase 2 are eligible to compete in phase 3.
The Phase 3 competition is structured with three Construction Levels which lead to future construction of a full-scale habitat. The first Construction Level involves printing a foundation. The second Construction Level brings the additional challenge of printing walls with penetrations (to simulate windows etc.) while providing a water-tight sealed structure. The third construction level culminates with a head-to-head challenge to print a 1:3 subscale (10.32 m2=111 ft2) habitat, simplified from the full-scale habitat design.
In addition to the three Construction Levels, the competition contains two Virtual Construction Levels. Teams who are competing in the Construction Levels are required to participate in the Virtual Construction Levels to help them develop their habitat design and to encourage integration of BIM data with autonomous 3D-printing processes.
There is also an option to enter the competition and participate only in the two Virtual Construction (BIM) Levels to facilitate participation in habitat design by those without access to assets to support physical printing and construction. Opportunities for designers and construction competitors to partner may exist and are encouraged.
The Phase 4 competition (Full-Scale Habitat), calling for the development of an autonomous 3D-Printed construction of a full-scale habitat (~93 m2), is planned to be announced at a later date.
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