With yesterdays success of NASA’s daring Curiosity landing, we’re one step closer to putting actual humans on this dessert planet. Therefore NASA engineers are testing a next-generation rover designed to support humans when we entually land on Mars. The most interesting part is that this super rover has seventy end-use parts 3D printed with FDM technology.
The rover, about the size of a Hummer and boasting a pressurized cabin to support humans in space, is being put to the test in the Arizona dessert. It holds two astronauts, has two small beds, twelve wheels on six axles, and an observation bubble so astronauts can get up close and personal with some Martian soil.
A Stratasys FDM machine was used for its 3D printed parts. NASA uses ABS, PCABS and polycarbonate materials. The FDM technique patented by Stratasys is the only technique that supports production-grade thermoplastics, which are lightweight but durable enough for rugged end-use parts.
NASA engineers also 3D print prototypes to test form, fit and function of parts they’ll eventually build in other materials. This ensures machined parts are based on the best possible design by solving challenges before committing to expensive tooling. “Everyone’s got a budget to deal with, and we’re no different,” says Chapman.
NASA claims that the Stratasys FDM technology is the only technology tough enough for such applications. Failure is not an option. “You always want it to be as light as possible, but you also want it to be strong enough that it’s got your safety factors, that nobody’s going to get hurt. You’re going at several thousand miles per hour just to escape the Earth’s atmosphere. So you’ve got to be able to handle all these vibrations just to get out into space, and the vehicle can’t be damaged.” NASA test engineer Chris Chapman says.