NASA Turns to Additive Manufacturing for Exploration
Josh Chan posted on August 08, 2012 | 3787 views

NASA hopes to achieve manned exploration of Mars. In order to do so, a special vehicle (or rover) must be designed and created that can withstand the harsh elements and terrain of a different planet as well as sustain human life for an extended period of time. This is where 3D printing plays a role.

TNASA Uses FDM Technology On Roverhis rover is one of a kind and therefore has many custom parts. Stratasys’ additive technology of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) seems like the logical choice for this matter, with its ability to create practically any part out of a thermoplastic that is strong enough to be used as an end-use part in a quick amount of time and lower cost when compared to traditional manufacturing methods. NASA turns to 3D printing for parts for its Rover (Make Parts Fast), “FDM offers the design flexibility and quick turnaround to build tailored housings for complex electronic assemblies. For example, one ear-shaped exterior housing is deep and contorted, and would be impossible — or at least prohibitively expensive — to machine.”

Chris Chapman, a test engineer for NASA states, “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.” Although NASA would like to explore Mars and other planets, realistically asteroids close to the Earth would probably be explored before Mars with similar rovers.

Do you think FDM technology was a good choice by NASA or was a different additive technology better suited to their needs?

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