Yolo Robotics LLC proposes developing the core technology for an inductive foundry to recycle, sort, and “free-cast” metals in space. The system consists of three perpendicular electromagnetic arrays that are independently commutated to induce arbitrary eddy currents and forces to melt and manipulate metals. This technology applies well-understood phenomena in a completely novel way for a substantial technological advance. Its compact, integrated hardware has no moving parts, an infinite workspace, and scales to match material throughput to available power. Current state of the art recycling and manufacturing is precise but slow, static, and life limited. The inductive foundry produces basic feedstocks (ingots, bars, plates, filament) and complex shapes (brackets, tools, extrusions) significantly faster than additive or subtractive manufacturing. The rough products generated by our in-space inductive foundry can either be used in low-precision applications (radiators, scaffolding, tanks) or more complex applications using additional manufacturing processes in space. The inductive foundry is the ideal tool for remote and continuous in-space recycling and manufacturing. It has immediate applications on the ISS, a sustainable business case to manage orbital debris, and is a foundational element of the cislunar economy. This Phase I effort shall study the system feasibility and demonstrate the proof of concept for maturing inductive foundry technology to TRL-3.
For NASA, the initial application of the induction foundry is to convert waste streams into useful feedstocks in support of remote and novel missions. At small scales, NASA can create a raw material reserve for repairs and new parts on the ISS and remote outposts. At larger scales, this technology can recycle orbital debris, convert rocket bodies, or even upcycle the ISS if otherwise deorbited. In the future, induction foundries will be a key element in cislunar and lunar infrastructure construction and operation.
For non-NASA applications, recycling with the induction foundry enables new options for the cislunar economy and beyond by breaking the launch bottleneck. Traditional aerospace now has the option to build large components on-orbit from recycled scrap without the cost and risks of deployables. Recycling enables grand commercial endeavors like power satellites, hotels, and asteroid refinement.