Do you think 3D printing is just for making small plastic toys? Although early 3D printing technology was more of a novelty, it has grown up fast into a practical fabrication tool. These days 3D printers are printing parts for cars, planes, food, human organs, and even buildings. What is next you ask?
How about sending a 3D printer to the moon and printing a moon base.
Using a 3D printing technology called microwave sintering and a giant spider like robot, NASA plans to fuse lunar soil together to build a space station. The Egyptians used a similar concept 4000 years ago when they learned that a mixture of sand, clay, water, and straw could be mixed and left in the sun to form sun-dried bricks also known as adobe. Instead of using the sun to bake the mixture together, NASA plans to speed up the process with a microwave ray-gun that can heat up the dirt found on the moon to a temperature high enough that it melts together and then cools to form a solid.
The real advantage is that NASA will not have to send heavy building materials, like concrete and steel, to the moon. With an estimated price tag of $20,000 a pound to lift an object into space, moving all of the supplies they would need to build it would cost a small fortune! The International Space Station, which is right now orbiting above our heads, weighs 924,739 pounds and cost about $18,500,000,000 just in fuel to get into space.