New Space race kicks off at Autodesk BUILD

By
Jeffrey Montes, Extraplanetary Habitats and Systems Lead, AI SpaceFactory
February 21, 2019

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).

Advantages: Authenticity

Disadvantages: Unknown

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.

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