In 2013, the European Space Agency revealed the potential possibility of producing items needed by astronauts on the Moon or Mars with the resources available on location. The unveiling came with the release of its pans for create a 3D-printed moon base. Architects have also voiced this claim in their own proposals to 3D print on Earth’s neighbor.

Today, were beginning to see some of this potential unlocked. Ramille Shah of Northwestern University has opened the Shah Tissue Engineering & Additive Manufacturing (Team) Lab where they have discovered that it is possible. They have successfully produced objects composed of dust stimulants from the Moon and Mars using 3D printers. Team members from the lab share this information with the general public in the journal Scientific Reports.

A proposed Mars camp that would be built by 3D printing with Mars’ dust

These stimulants represent the Moon and Mars very accurately, being very close in composition, shape and size to that of the dust found on the extraterrestrial surfaces. The team at the lab was able to create small, Lego-like bricks that can be assembled as well as simple tools. by mixing dusts from the Moon and/or Mars with different bio-polymers and solvents then using a simple extrusion 3D printer.

The objects team has produced thus far and composed of over 90 percent of dust. Quite contrary to what one might think, however, the items are all extremely flexible, elastic and durable – almost similar to rubber. The are also extremely unique in the fact that they can be cut, rolled, folded and shaped. Looking to take advantage of this versatility, the lab’s team is currently working to establish a method of making them into a hand material similar to ceramic, by heating them to a kiln.

The image below illustrates the steps the team at the lab must take to produce these materials using 3D printing technology: