RegoLight explores the process of sintering, which utilizes a concentrated beam of light to heat powdered material to form a coalesced solid without reaching temperatures high enough to melt the medium. A solar-sintering oven at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) served as the starting point for the project. RegoLight provides enhancements to the system.
The first part of the printing campaign at DLR was to use a manual approach to building a basic building element, researching optimal conditions for successful sintering. Once these parameters were located, progression was made to automating the system.
Automated solar-sintering system in ambient environment – developed by DLR and Space Applications
Test campaigns, conducted periodically throughout the project, are used to validate and optimize the operation of the autonomous translation table and feeder system and to characterize the physical samples that are produced.
Sintered samples of different geometries for testing printer limitations and accuracy
Important changes during the development of RegoLight:
Replacement of JSC1-A (Orbitech-USA) with JSC2-A (Zybek-USA)
There was greater technological capacity to produce a fine structure building element from lunar regolith simulant JSC2-A and solar simulator, as compared to earlier sintering campaigns using the JSC-1A and concentrated sunlight.
Fabricated geometry using: JSC-1A/sunlight (LEFT) / JSC-2A/solar simulator (RIGHT)
Replacement of sunlight energy source with Xenon solar simulator lamps
In order to provide steady light conditions more analogous to the Lunar environment, a Xenon High-Flux solar simulator is used to replace the concentrated solar beam. This substitution light source mitigates the problem of unpredictable weather patterns inherent on Earth.
Xenon solar simulator lamps at DRL solar furnace, Cologne
Support structure material
A suitable support structure for sintering simulant regolith is researched with consideration to its adhesion-, surface roughness- & strength properties and its limitation to the dimensions of the 3D axis table.
Support structure tests (left to right, refractory brick, clay brick, aluminum plate coated with a mixture of high-temperature glue, zirconium oxide/aluminum oxide)