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Fused Layer Deposition of Lunar Regolith

Programme Reference
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Fused Layer Deposition of Lunar Regolith

In order to enable lunar exploration in a sustainable manner, it is necessary to develop technologies that allow the use of lunar resources in-situ. Additive manufacturing techniques are being studied for in-situ resources utilization on the Moon (e.g.: solar or laser sintering). The results of these studies, presented samples with low mechanical properties due to the formation of defects and cracks within the final product.

Lunar regolith is a mixture of crystalline and amorphous material (glass). The degree of vitrification of glassy products highly depends on the respective cooling process. In this project, the implementation of the annealing process during printing is proposed. The annealing process consists on the control of the cooling process from the glass transition temperature to room temperature in order to minimize the internal stresses inside the material and reduce the defects formed during cooling down.

For this project, the used of Fused Layer Deposition (FLD) with lunar regolith simulant as raw material is explored. FLD is an Additive Manufacturing technique which consists on the fabrication of parts by extruding the molten material in a layer wise manner. In order to avoid the crack formation in the final product, the layers are extruded inside an annealing chamber. This enables controlling the cooling rate of the printed parts, leading to the relaxation of internal stresses inside the glass structure.

Executive summary