April 18, 2023

3D-printed moon habitat wins “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois”

Illinois inventions from the zipper to the cellphone have changed the world but one of the state’s most innovative products is meant for a new frontier beyond Earth: A 3D-printed capsule that could one day house humans on the moon has been dubbed “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois” for 2023.

Photo of the finished Moon Habitat with a woman in front of it

Image Source: SAGA Space Architects

The Rosenberg Moon Habitat, made by Ingersoll Machine Tools in Rockford, was selected by voters in the annual “Makers Madness,” a bracket-style contest hosted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association to highlight the innovation and capabilities of manufacturing across the state.

Designed to house two people, the habitat stands 23 feet high but has a thickness of just 5 mm, making it the tallest 3D-printed polymer structure in the world.

“This team quite literally reached for the stars and imagined a future of space travel and habitation that inspires us all. To them and to all the participants, congratulations, and thank you for all you do to make Illinois a hub of innovation,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

“The habitat represents the very best of our state’s manufacturing industry, where creativity and determination turn dreams into reality— including living on the moon,” said Mark Denzler, President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “We are proud of the wide variety of products featured throughout this year’s competition, and hope this contest shines a light on the important work taking place on factory floors across Illinois every day.”

Other innovations ranking highly in the contest include Elastec’s Drug Terminator, a portable drug incinerator to help safely dispose of prescription drugs or confiscated narcotics; a radar sensor made by Hella Electronics used in driver’s assistance and automated driving systems; and, in a nod to the state’s leading position in food innovation, an array of sauces cooked up by 17th Street Barbeque.

Previous winners have included the Rivian electric truck made in Normal, a self-regulating traffic signal heater made by Termico Technologies in Elk Grove Village, and Caterpillar’s gargantuan 797F mining truck, which has 4,000 horsepower and can haul loads of more than 400 tons.

Illinois’ legacy of world-changing innovation and manufacturing extends far back into the 19th century. The zipper debuted in Chicago in 1893. The dishwasher was invented by Shelbyville socialite Josephine Cochrane, who won a patent for her creation in 1886. And anyone reading this on their smartphone can thank Martin Cooper, who developed the first cellphone for Motorola in 1973.

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