Much of the material used to build a space craft is structurally necessary to survive launch but once in space, these structures are no longer needed. Space architect Raul Polit-Casillas pushes the limits of what’s currently impossible with 4D printing – printing an entire space craft at one time – no assembly required – and incorporating multiple functions that are useful beyond launch. Raul Polit Casillas grew up around fabrics. His mother is a fashion designer in Spain and even at a young age, he was intrigued by how materials are used for design. Now, a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he still is very much in the world of textiles. He and his colleagues are designing advanced woven metal fabrics for use in space through 3-D printing techniques. Polit-Casillas calls it “4-D printing” because they can print both the geometry and the function of these special materials which may someday shield a spacecraft from meteorites, fortify an astronaut’s spacesuit, or capture objects on the surface of another planet.
Polit Casillas is the recipient of numerous JPL, NASA and AES Awards. He co-leads JPL’s Atelier, a workshop that does rapid prototyping of advanced concepts and systems. He is a Space Technology Program Office Collaborator with external companies such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Autodesk and Frank Gehry Studio. He is the founder of both the Entasis Mecanika, a freelance initiative for architecture, technology and design, and the Aliter International Symposium Series in Space Architecture. He is also the curator and director of the 2012 Inhabiting Cosmos International Exhibition Series at the IVAM Museum of Modern Art, and sits on the AIAA Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC).
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