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Foster + Partners wins first stage of Nasa 3D printing challenge

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Architect Foster + Partners has been awarded first place in the first stage of a 3D printing competition headed up by Nasa.

The Nasa 3D Printed Habitat Challenge asked entrants to use recycled mission materials and indigenous soil together to 3D print a truncated cone and a cylinder, which were then subjected to compression testing to assess their suitability as structural components.

The competition envisions a future where autonomous machines will help construct extra-terrestrial shelters for human habitation, while also aiding the development of technologies that advance fabrication capabilities on earth.

The competition has three phases and Foster + Partners will now move on to phase two.

While the final shelter will be a complex assembly of smaller building elements, the focus through the various stages of the challenge is to design and test individual prototypical building elements that can help demonstrate the suitability of the entire process from manufacture to construction and structural performance.

Foster + Partners California teamed up with Branch Technology, a tech start-up working in the development of 3D printing and cellular fabrication technologies for its entry.

Together they developed a cylinder design which combined 30% recycled mission plastics and 70% Martian regolith (soil) to achieve a maximum compressive load of 62,530lbs/28,363kg.

Having successfully completed level 1, the team will now work toward the level 2 competition submission at the end of May, in which a beam will be printed to test spanning structures.