AI SpaceFactory has set up shop at Autodesk’s BUILD space in Boston to print the future of Mars—and we are not alone. BUILD has become an international hot-bed of robotic construction with three teams vying to be the first builders on Mars. Here’s a look at the contenders in this new space race:
TEAM AI SpaceFactory
Machine: Harpoon 1 & 2
Material: Bioplastic-Basalt Composite
A late entry to the race, AI SpaceFactory is quickly gaining speed. Our 3D-printer, Harpoon 1 (named after the brewery down the street) is an assemblage of several machines strapped onto one of the largest 6-axis robotic arms in existence: the ABB IRB-6700, a whale with a 3-meter reach and 240-kilogram payload. In three weeks AI SpaceFactory has trained this gentle giant to print slabs and cylinders with a mixture of bioplastic and basalt oozed from a 25-kg thermoplastic extruder. As the team scales up with larger prints, the speed of the extruder will be a limiting factor.
Advantages: Precision, cool habitat design
Disadvantages: Slow print speed
TEAM SEArch+/Apis Cor
Material: Concrete, others
Two weeks into Autodesk BUILD, a large wooden crate arrived containing a bear of a machine: the Apis Cor 3D printer. According to the company’s website, it has a work area of 132 m2, a wingspan of 8.5-meters, and pumps out volumes of concrete. Numbers don’t convey the ferocity of their machine: here’s a look at it in action.
Advantages: Experience, speed, mobility, and volume
Disadvantages: Concrete needs water, Mars doesn't have much water
TEAM Max - Massimiliano Moruzzi
Material: Basalt-Plastic Composite
Before joining Autodesk, Massimiliano “Mad Max” Moruzzi built stealth drones for Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks, had a stint with Lamborghini, and printed moon structures out of pixie dust at NASA’s Swamp Works. Max uses a plastic and basalt composite but in an inverse ratio to AI SpaceFactory: essentially extruding rock from a thermoplastic extruder, an approach closest to simulating actual conditions on Mars. Max lent a helping hand to AI SpaceFactory to get the team up and running (thanks, Max).
With Construction Level 2 of the NASA Challenge due in 6 weeks, the race is on to get to the next of printing speed, accuracy, and volume. Stay tuned to next time as we drop shot-puts from 4-meters high onto freshly printed basalt.