Producing the materials needed to fabricate structures and vehicles is a critical requirement for the long-term occupation of space. If everything had to be delivered from Earth, the cost would be overwhelming. The process proposed here will allow the production of iron and nickel almost anywhere in the solar system in a form appropriate for use in Additive Manufacturing without consuming any material that must be brought from Earth. Once in the powder form the metals, if desired, can readily be converted to other forms such as rods, ingots, and sheets for use with conventional fabrication methods. Therefore, proposed process allows supplying both additive and conventional fabrication processes with metal.
The volatilization-based process to be used in the proposed project is already known as an effective method of producing high purity metals. Pure metals produced by this process are generally more expensive compared to those produced by other processes (for instance, iron reduced with coke), which limits their use to high value applications. A direct application of the proposed process is to permit the straight fabrication of metal in a form suitable for Additive Manufacturing processes rather than making bulk material and reducing its particle size. Indirectly, improvements made as part of this project will contribute to reducing the price gap and increasing the number of applications that can cost effectively use high purity iron and nickel.