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Next frontier: Drake State program 3D-prints lunar habitats

HUNTSVILLE — The Frontiers Research Program at Drake State Community and Technical College demonstrated the capability to 3D-print habitats on the moon.

“Our Advanced Manufacturing students began 3D-printing a two-sided, seven-foot structure,” Dr. Marina Kingsbury, director of Grants and Sponsored Programs, said at a news conference Monday. “And each printing sprint will consist of 42 layers.”

The Frontiers Research Program is a NASA-sponsored Cooperative Agreement with Drake State. It is the first of its kind to be awarded to a two-year institution and Historically Black College and University.

The agreement calls for research in processes and materials for large-scale 3D printing of structures. The Alabama Legislature also contributed toward the purchase and installation of the 3D printer.

“Today is a promise delivered to our legislative delegation, our NASA stakeholders, and our students and community,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “I want to thank the Madison County Legislative Delegation for believing and investing in the college.

“Your $350,000 investment has allowed us to provide training for interns and faculty, develop curriculum, and purchase the 3D printer and supplies.”

Drake State’s partnership with NASA has helped the college dive into additive manufacturing research for NASA’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology Project.

The Frontiers Research Program also created a curriculum for the Alabama Community College System to train additive manufacturing technicians in a variety of printing materials, including concrete.

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