An agile white vehicle roams the Arizona desert, maneuvering the unforgiving terrain as the wind and sun beat down and temperatures swing from one extreme to another. NASA astronauts and engineers are test-driving a rover over rocks and sand, up and down hills in an environment that simulates the brutal conditions of Mars.
The rover is integral to NASA’s mission to extend human reach farther into space. Its cabin can accommodate a pair of astronauts for days as they study extraterrestrial surfaces. Its twelve rugged wheels on six axles grapple over irregular, unsure terrain.
To design such a specialized vehicle, NASA engineers drew on ingenuity and advanced technology. For example, about 70 of the parts that make up the rover were built digitally, directly from computer designs, in the heated chamber of a production-grade Stratasys 3D Printer. The process, called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology or additive manufacturing, creates complex shapes durable enough for Martian terrain.
Computer Aided Technoloy, Inc.