Additive manufacturing of hydrogel-based lunar regolith pastes: A pathway toward in-situ resource utilization and in-space manufacturing

Md Habibor Rahman, Anna K. Hayes, Krishna Muralidharan, Douglas A. Loy, Mohammed Shafae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Additive Manufacturing (AM), combined with efficient in-situ resource utilization, has the potential to enable sustained presence on the Moon through in-situ production and replacement of construction blocks, engineered parts, and devices in the lunar terrain. As an initial step toward realizing this vision, this work proposes a new material formulation utilizing lunar regolith simulants (LHS-1), water, and a hydrophilic hydrogel-forming polymer (Pluronic F127) to produce a hydrogel-based lunar regolith paste suitable for material extrusion AM. This formulation enables the use of water as another potential lunar in-situ resource for the first time in the literature, considering the recent confirmation of large quantities of water-ice in the shadowed craters around the lunar poles and the presence of water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. To systematically investigate the viability of the proposed hydrogel-based lunar regolith material feedstock and the application of material extrusion AM, this work introduces a three-stage design of experiment (DOE) framework to achieve two fundamental objectives. First, the viable range of lunar regolith simulant in the hydrogel-based material formulation is identified using a categorical quality evaluation of single and multi-layer material depositions. Second, the material printability window is established in terms of printing speed and extrusion rate for different viable material compositions through hierarchically designed experiments. The observed porosity of the sintered parts decreased with increasing regolith content in the material composition, while the density and compressive strength increased with higher regolith content. For material compositions consisting of 25–40 vol% regolith simulants, the observed porosity of the sintered parts decreased from 6.4 to 2.18 %, their density increased from 0.78 to 0.89 g/cm3, and their average compressive strength ranged between 0.68 and 1.32 MPa. Finally, the printability of the material was demonstrated by producing various prototype hand tools and lab-scale construction blocks with varying geometrical complexities. This work represents a crucial step toward in situ resource utilization and sustainable in-space manufacturing, sets the stage for future investigations, and the introduced DOE driven framework offers a pathway toward systematically identifying the optimal material compositions and the corresponding process parameters to enable high-quality prints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-282
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Processes
StatePublished - May 30 2024


  • 3D printing
  • In-situ resource utilization (ISRU)
  • In-space manufacturing
  • Lunar regolith
  • Material extrusion additive manufacturing
  • Printability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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