Virginia Tech Research and Students on the Interplanetary Stage with Competition Winner AI Space Factory at the Finals of the NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge

Virginia Tech collaborator AI Space Factory was announced as the 1st place winner out of over 60 challengers of the multi-phase NASA Centennial Challenge. During the competition, Virginia Tech researchers consulted on the development of a large-scale robotic 3D printing process prototyped at the Center for Design Research Design Robotics lab and deployed during the initial construction phases of the competition in the Autodesk Technology Center in Boston. As part of the Industry collaboration between AI Space Factory and Virginia Tech’s Large Format Additive Manufacturing and Construction Initiative (a collaboration between SA+D-CDR, CoE, and MII), four students and two faculty traveled to the Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center near Peoria Illinois to participate in the final construction stage of the NASA 3D printed habitat challenge. During the competition, students worked with designers and engineers from AI Space Factory to deploy the robotic 3D printing system and to demonstrate the process during the production building-scale continuously produced thermoplastic print. The print, a 1/3 -scale prototype of the AI Space Factory Mars habitat proposal Marsha, is among the largest thermoplastic printed objects and a milestone for Architectural Engineering, and Construction (AEC) applications for Additive Manufacturing.

In preparation for the competition and as part of parallel work happening in the CDR- Design Robotics laboratory on campus, students have been developing large scale prototypes of furniture and architectural scale elements as well as conducting material experiments. The results of these efforts will be showcased during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in the Jacob Javits Center in New York City from May 19th- 22nd.

The Large Format Additive Manufacturing and Construction initiative is a collaboration between the faculty in the School of Architecture + Design, College of Engineering, and the Macromolecules Innovation Institute and was developed with the support of the Center for Design Research, DREAMS Lab (Mechanical Engineering), Bortner LAB (Chemical Engineering), The Long Research Group (Chemistry), and the Institute for Creativity Arts and Technologies (ICAT). The student team is composed of Martin Angst (M.Arch); Edward Coe (MS. Arch); Kaelum Hasler (B. ID); Ben Woods (ME); Jameson O’Donnell (B. Arch); Sean McCarthy (B. Arch); Callan McGill (B. ID); Bradley Turner (B. ID); and Joseph Kubalak (PhD, ME)

For more information check out the competition highlight reel.
AI Space Factory Website

First Image: On-site team posing in front of the completed MARSHA prototype. Image courtesy of AI Space Factory.

Second Image: Catepillar demonstration facility and site of the competition. AI Space Factory on the right. Image courtesy of Kaelum.