A 3D Printer is a device with which you can print three-dimensional objects. This may initially sound strange, but will become obvious once you know that the objects can be built in layers. The printer applies the relevant materials instead of ink (i.e. plastic) and consequently forms the result.
Because these printers are now available for consumers at normal prices, in the future, we will purchase merely printing data instead of the product. So this trend actually moves away from mass-market productions and towards individualized items.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is now using this technology as the basis of a study, which researches to what extent it would be possible to print lunar buildings on the Moon with these printers. The interesting part is that one would use lunar rocks and soil from the Moon as printing material (in the form of dust that covers the Moon’s surface, known as regolith), and would therefore save all transportation to the Moon. ESA is working on this project together with the renowned London architect firm Foster+Partners, which have designed a lunar base in the shape of a dome. The architects have already proven their skill here on Earth with similar shaped structures, like the dome of the Reichstag building in Berlin.
According to the study, other building elements are also supposed to be created with 3D printers – right up to houses for lunar settlers. Of course, all of this is still a pie in the sky, because up until today, it is not even clear when the next human will tread on the Moon again. Scheduled lunar missions are being stopped again and again due to budgeting. We have indeed enough problems to solve here on Earth …