NASA launches $2m contest to 3D print homes for Mars

3D Printed Habitat Challenge

US space agency NASA has launched a $2.25m competition to design and build 3D printed homes for distant planets like Mars, as well as for remote locations on earth. The agency is working with America Makes, the US National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, on the project to advance additive construction technology to create sustainable housing.

The first phase of the competition covers design, and calls on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts that take advantage of the capabilities of 3D printing. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

The second phase of the competition is divided into two levels. The structural member competition (level 1) focuses on fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The on-site habitat competition (level 2) challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables. Both levels open for registration in September and each carries a $1.1m prize.

Winning concepts and products will help NASA build the technical expertise to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, such as Mars. Packing enough materials and equipment to build a habitat on a distant planet would take up valuable cargo space that could be used for other life-sustaining provisions. The ability to manufacture a habitat using indigenous materials, combined with material that would otherwise be waste from the spacecraft, would therefore be invaluable.

On earth, the capabilities may be used one day to construct affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to conventional building materials.

Ralph Resnick, America Makes founding director and National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) president and executive director said: “We believe that 3D printing/additive manufacturing has the power to fundamentally change the way people approach design and construction for habitats, both on earth and off, and we are excitedly awaiting submissions from all types of competitors.”

 

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