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Building a base on the +Moon could theoretically be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to construct it from local materials.

The concept was recently endorsed by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is now collaborating with architects to gauge the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

“Terrestrial 3D printing technology has produced entire structures,” explained Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA. “Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat.”

According to Pambaguian, ESA’s partners have devised a weight-bearing “catenary” dome design with a cellular structured wall to help shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation – incorporating a pressurized inflatable to shelter astronauts.

Meanwhile, a hollow closed-cell structure – somewhat reminiscent of bird bones – provides a combination of strength and weight. The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 ton building block produced as a demonstration.

“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” said Scott Hovland of ESA’s human spaceflight team. “The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy.”

Essentially, 3D “printouts” are built up layer by layer. A mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 m frame sprays a binding solution onto a sand-like building material. First, the simulated lunar material is mixed with magnesium oxide to turn it into ‘paper’ to print with. Then for the structural ‘ink’ a binding salt is applied to convert the material to a stone-like solid.

Current 3D printers build at a rate of around 2 m per hour, while next-gen designs should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week.
base_Lunairemade_imprimante_3D.jpg
get more info. at Earth's Blog: Building a Lunar Base with 3D Printing
 

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And how long before this gets miniaturized... imagine a nanobot which could 3D print parts for itself; able eventually to 3D Print an entirely new nanobot.

Now imagine said nanobot that had the means to actually obtain the same materials it's made out of from the environment as well as the fuel which it needs to operate and print out more copies of itself; it could also get rid of waste as well.

You have a device not entirely different from a tribble -- the fuzzy creature in "The Trouble With Tribbles" from Star Trek that does nothing but eat, make noises, and reproduce at an alarming rate -- except this device would not be fuzzy, would not be cute, and you would not want to put these in your bum (it's a joke from a Voltaire song), and it would be nanoscale -- it would be able to consume damn near anything and produce more if itself which in turn would produce more.

Eventually you'd be left with the whole world reduced to nano-particles and their waste products -- a scenario scientists have called "grey goo". All life, all humans, all other animals, all insects, even bacteria would be consumed and replaced by nano-bots.
 

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And how long before this gets miniaturized... imagine a nanobot which could 3D print parts for itself; able eventually to 3D Print an entirely new nanobot.
I used to think about this stuff a lot (grey goo etc), as it turns out, it is a bit of a fantasy. As it turns out, self replicating nanobots would need to follow the laws of thermodynamics like any other process. I don't think it would be possible except in specialised mediums under specialised conditions. Which leads to the usual risks of chemical processes (explosions, waste, environmental toxicity etc).
 

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@Snow Leopard

As it turns out, self replicating nanobots would need to follow the laws of thermodynamics like any other process.
True, but you know how much power is brought to earth just by the sun? This power is usually untapped, but the fact is that it's present.

I don't think it would be possible except in specialised mediums under specialised conditions.
The perfect storm eh?
 

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True, but you know how much power is brought to earth just by the sun? This power is usually untapped, but the fact is that it's present.
The thing is, these systems require an incredible amount of information storage and recall. Microbots already exist of course, they're called Bacteria. That might give you more of an idea about what I mean by specialised conditions.
 

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@Snow Leopard

Data storage is getting smaller by the day it seems
 
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