Commissioned in November 2018 at a total cost of $300k, a 280 sq. ft. enclosure providing atmospheric isolation was outfitted with an ABB Robotics IRB 6700 series, 7th generation, high payload, high performance industrial robot. The robot has a large working range of 2.85 meters, high wrist torque, and high production capacity. Coupled with 6-axes of rotation, this allows for a large range of configurations and seamless transition between points in space. The robot has been adapted with a variable temperature melt extruder to produce sulfur-based concretes for both Earth and Mars constructions. Due to the open nature of the extruder, the robot is also capable of printing with various other temperature-dependent composites. To allow the greatest freedom of programming and research, the robot has been set up for control via both ABB Robot Studio tooling software, as is standard in manufacturing industry, and RoboDK software, which allows Python interfacing and a high degree of functional freedom.
Northwestern's cement 3D printer provides a unique research opportunity into rheological behavior of printed cementitious pastes. The printer utilizes a modified CNC machine frame to act as the gantry, and pressurizes the paste using a Liberty Process Equipment progressive cavity pump and high torque stepper motor. The printer is controlled via mirco controllers and Repetier-Host, a highly flexible open software package.
The Multi-Scale 3D Printing Infrastructure Laboratory also hosts an Anet A6 plastics 3D printer for developing mockups and equipment parts. The printer is capable of printing with Polylactic Acid (PLA), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS), and several other plastic filaments.
With the support of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, has established a large scale 3D printing facility capable of the additive manufacturing of structures made from a variety of materials including sulfur-based concrete, a non-aqueous material developed at NU and being used to explore habitat construction using indigenous materials on Mars.
The SEIM Laboratory is equipped with three universal testing machines (20 kips, 220 kips, and 1,000 kips capacity) and a closed-loop MTS hydraulic system. These machines/systems are used for testing a variety of construction materials and assemblies under both pseudo-static and dynamic loading. Complementing this equipment is a series of digital and analog instruments, and high-speed data acquisition and control systems. Additionally, the lab houses a Kolsky Bar capable of testing samples at very high strain rates.
Hotpack Environmental Chambers feature corrosion resistant 304 stainless steel construction, chromium heating elements and fireproof, non-hygroscopic glass wool insulation which is impervious to corrosive vapours and fumes. Microprocessor controls with LED digital readouts enable efficient control of precise temperature and humidity conditions.