Concrete-Forming Robots for Mars

Well, not exactly for Mars, but this is what we had in mind when we wrote about teleoperated “formers” building the foundations for the Green’s agricultural domes – Buildings Made with a Printer:

Some areas would have strong, dense concrete, but in areas of low stress, the concrete could be extremely porous and light, serving only as a barrier to the elements while saving material and reducing the weight of the structure. In these non-load bearing areas, it could also be possible to print concrete that’s so porous that light can penetrate, or to mix the concrete gradually with transparent materials. Such designs could save energy by increasing the amount of daylight inside a building and reducing the need for artificial lighting. Eventually, it may be possible to print efficient insulation and ventilation at the same time. The structure can be complex, since it costs no more to print elaborate patterns than simple ones.

Other researchers are developing technology to print walls and other large structures. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of industrial and systems engineering and civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, has built a system that can deposit concrete walls without the need for forms to contain the concrete. Oxman’s work would take this another step, adding the ability to vary the properties of the concrete, and eventually work with multiple materials.

We devisedĀ a similarĀ idea for In the Shadow of Ares as a means of building large structures on Mars without the need for a large construction crew and the sorts of construction equipment, specialized forms, etc. used to cast concrete on Earth. In our case, it was a reasonable application of the speculative technology already established in the novel (specifically the simulacrum intelligence used in MAs and the robotics employed in diggers).