Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
On March 9th 2021, ICON of Austin, Texas unveiled what it proclaimed as the world’s first 3D printed lunar rocket launch and landing pad. (ICON describes itself as an “advanced construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding.”) It was designed by a team of undergraduate students from 10 different colleges and universities across America, with ICON claiming that it was reusable and could be 3D printed from materials found on the Moon. In addition, the student team presented a paper on the concept at the American Institute Of Aeronautics And Astronautics’ 2021 SciTech forum back in January.
Named the Lunar Plume Alleviation Device (Lunar PAD), ICON contended that it helps solve the problems caused by the force of a rocket engine’s exhaust on the dust on the lunar surface. It features a series of petal-like channels that deflect the force of the rocket’s exhaust upwards and outwards, minimizing the amount of lunar dust displaced during launch and landing, which is captured by a wall surrounding the pad’s structure. (Engineering news website Interesting Engineering argued that the induced dust clouds made the Apollo moon landings risky due to how much they reduced visibility.)
The student team first proposed the idea of the Lunar PAD to NASA back in summer 2019, winning funding and support from the relevant experts to develop the concept. In June 2020, the team presented the concept to NASA again, securing funding to 3D print and test a subscale prototype version of the pad. With ICON’s help, the students did this in October that year at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. Finally, the team reunited at Camp Swift earlier in March to do a static fire test with a rocket motor on a full-sized version of the pad, with ICON unsurprisingly declaring that it had worked as intended.
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