3D Printing Across the World and Beyond

3D printing technology is creating new solutions for people all across our world – and a recent contest shows it’s even expanding options beyond the earth as well.

The Ice House, created by SEArch/Clouds Architecture Office, is a 3D printed shell design for a building that would enable researchers to work safely on Mars. The design is the product of hard work by a 12-person team that includes 3D printing engineers, geologists, astrophysicists and structural engineers. The shell shows such promise that it took home first place in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition. According to contest guidelines, designers were challenged to create a design for a 3D printed structure that scientists could use for work on Mars. In addition to being functional, the design also had to be appropriate for the planet’s environment and make use of existing natural resources.

So how does the Ice House work?

Think of it like an igloo, just geared for a much more hostile environment – specifically Mars’ northern hemisphere. The shell is 5 centimeters thick and features a smaller, nesting dome inside. All of this is designed to protect human visitors to the red planet from Mars’ inherent frigid temperatures and radiation. The Ice House is so secure it will even allow the team to conduct their research without the requirement of any protective suit. And the shell will also pull double duty protecting the planet itself from any human contamination.

The Ice House finished first of 165 entrees in the habitat challenge and for lovers of the 3D printing craft, it’s worth a quick browse through the other top entrants on the list.

“The creativity and depth of the designs we’ve seen have impressed us,” Centennial Challenges Program Manager Monsi Roman said in this press release. “These teams were not only imaginative and artistic with their entries, but they also really took into account the life-dependent functionality our future space explorers will need in an off-Earth habitat.”

For the team at SEArch/Clouds Architecture Office, this is an exciting victory and for those of us in the 3D printing world, it’s just further proof of what doors can be opened with this amazing technology.