One of the principal problems on living far away from home is doing the most with less. No, I am not equating living on Mars to your first year at college, eating Ketchup Sandwiches to stay alive.
Getting to Mars is not easy, and if you can build ‘the most’ with the least amount of tools and materials, NASA would like to speak to you about using sheetmetal and compressed fluid to inflate structures.
Wait, what? Inflated metal? Yes, exactly that. Perfected by design lab Zieta, it is possible to cut and weld sheets in such a way that when they are inflated by air or other fluids, the piece warps into the intended shape. Zieta has a whole slew of great designs, similar in style to Jeff Koons, giving off the impression of incredible lightness although the pieces are sturdy enough for proper use. The method is so simple and useful that the people at Polish Space design group Space Is More took the idea in the place you’d least likely to find air.
Like 3D Printing, Zieta’s method (called FIDU, or Freie Innen Druck Umformung – ‘free inner-pressure deformation’) requires only relatively cheap and recyclable feedstock and is a tool-less fabrication technique. In Zieta’s case, they use robotic plasma cutting and welding to freely fabricate pieces that are then inflated using air. Space Is More partnered up with Zieta to explore the applications on places like Mars, where the thin atmosphere can be compressed and used to create furnishings as well as whole structures from pre-fab or locally fabricated pieces in-situ.
FIDU is actually quite an impressive construction material, as beams have been tested to have a ‘1:10 weight to load-bearing ratio’, utilizing 1 mm steel and 0.4 bar pressure. Space Is More envisioned using these techniques to build a 20 m dome, covering the Martian surface to enable “the creation of settlements in the hollow of Martian rock [and] to protect the colonists from harmful radiation”. Other modules were designed to be single monolithic pieces, created from large unrolled sheets to be inflated upon landing.
Pretty snappy idea – just remember to replace the compressed gas with some oxygen before letting anyone in!