Carbonyl Metals Plant
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The Mond process, for extracting ferrous metals from in-situ resources at low temperatures, is the basis of the Metals Plant concept. It requires pressurized carbon monoxide to form the metal carbonyls that are the intermediate step to vapor deposition of these metals. The carbonyl bonds are broken at lower pressures and higher temperature, depositing metal, and freeing carbon monoxide.
Metal objects can be manufactured in much the same way as plastic pieces are printed on a RepRap 3D printer. In the case of the carbonyl metals plant, printing takes place on a metal, ceramic, or regolith base in a metal carbonyl atmosphere. Using a laser, portions of the printing base are heated to high temperature which results in a breakdown of metal carbonyl at those locations. Metals are deposited and CO ligands are released. After the initial metal layer is deposited, the laser can be used to heat the previous layer and print new layers on top. Once deposition printing has been completed, the disposable base can be broken off of the metal part and the piece is ready for further finishing.