All images courtesy of Ozel Office
Ozel Office, in collaboration with UCLA Department of Engineering researchers, was awarded the ‘Runner Up’ (4th prize) at NASA’s 3D printed habitats competition. The competition called for designers to envision a 4 astronaut dwelling in Mars and 3D printed through the use of indigenous resources.
The ‘hybrid composites’ team is lead by Guvenc Ozel, an architect, faculty member and researcher at UCLA Department of Architecture and of the IDEAS platform both supported by expert consultants from UCLA department of engineering and material science, conducting research in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, material sciences, additive manufacturing, and robotics. Ozel’s current research at UCLA focuses on the application of robotics and sensors into architecture as well as a collaboration with UCLA engineering on exploring the use of composite materials in building scale 3D printing.
The premise of their entry lies in this research, where, instead of 3D printing concrete-like shells from local sand, the team proposes to 3D print high performance composite shells through the combination of locally harvested composite fibers soaked in fast curing polymer resins, a 3D printing version of how high-performance boats, planes, satellites, and spaceships are built. Primary structural systems will be built by extruding composite fibers woven into various profiles through robotically controlled mandrel systems, in conjunction with a novel resin/polymer catalyst that instantly cures.
The composite fibers are made by processing the local Martian basalt rocks, in order to create basalt finer. As a secondary material, they propose carbon fiber, harvested through an artificial photosynthesis chimney, which would suck up the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere, to split it into carbon and oxygen molecules. The carbon would be used for creating carbon fiber, and the oxygen would either be stored for later use or released back to the martian atmosphere for a gradual ‘terraforming.’
A robotically controlled 3D printing head would extrude a structural web-like lattice by weaving basalt and carbon fiber into sleeves, soaked in polymer. Composite shells for enclosing the structure would be made of strands woven into flat fabrics soaked in polymer, which are then positioned into the desired place through the help of robotic arms and unarmed air vehicles.
The overall structure of the habitat is raised off of the ground in order to reduce to amount of ground work and the foundation footprint. This configuration also allows for sheltering outside equipment such as rovers and robots underneath a canopy and better isolate the living quarters from contaminants.