Apollo lunar rover

Lockheed martin leverages Makerbot 3D technology for NASA lunar rover

MakerBot’s 3D printers have numerous applications and use cases including several parts for prototyping, proof of concept components for the rover projects such as installed system housings,

sensor mounts and other bespoke parts.

These printed parts are designed to withstand extreme environmental temperatures and conditions, Stratasys SR 30 and Makerbot Abs soluble support materials were used by Lockheed Martin.
These materials are used by Makerbot ABS to create a nicer surface finish.

The solvent support materials allow for more dynamic geometries that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.
“This is the initial development stage,” says Martin Lockheed and the rover ATC is a testbed that we designed and developed in-house.”
Aaron Christian, Space Senior Mechanical Engineer, also added, The cost-effective testbed enables quick changes using 3D printing to change the design for other use- -cases, whether it be search and rescue, military, or intense environment autonomy needs.”

Created with Makerbot technology, this is a mount for LIDAR, a sensor that can detect the proximity of objects around it. printed in ABD instead of PLA. The sensor is mounted on the rover and can withstand intense conditions.
The design allows engineers to swap the LIDAR with multiple sensors,e.g stereo cameras and direction antennas.

It was also created to allow for appropriate ventilation, ensuring that the parts remain controlled even when in operation.
The mounted electronics casing, on the other hand, was printed in PLA to shield the electronics from the hit.
This element features a regulator to cool down the system and is designed to enter the rover or other automatons at the ATC.

lockheed martin leveraging makerbot
photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Makerbot Putting 3D printing on the market

In conclusion, the symbiotic relationship between 3D printing and space flight holds unprecedented potential, extending far beyond the mere production of near-finished items. The integration of 3D printing technology in space applications introduces a paradigm shift in design simplicity, as highlighted by Aaron Christian. This shift not only allows for the creation of more intricate shapes but also significantly streamlines the entire manufacturing process.

Christian’s insight emphasizes a crucial advantage in space applications: the reduction of required fasteners and parts. The subsequent cost savings are substantial, not only in terms of the actual production of components but also in the inspection and construction phases. Fewer components mean less scrutiny, ultimately translating to a more cost-effective approach in space exploration. Moreover, this efficiency opens the door to future possibilities, particularly in the realm of in-space assembly, where the minimized complexity of 3D-printed parts becomes a key facilitator.

The capability to develop, print, and thoroughly test a part on Earth before replicating the same component in space is a monumental leap in space technology. The assurance that materials and parts are functional in the unique conditions of space is a game-changer. Lockheed Martin, recognizing the transformative potential of 3D printing, envisions not only significant cost reductions but also enhanced design agility. This newfound agility extends to the utilization of a digital library housing a plethora of part files, providing an extensive repository for future space missions.

In essence, the marriage of 3D printing and space technology propels us into an era where innovation knows no bounds. The streamlining of designs, the reduction in parts and fasteners, and the accessibility to a digital repository collectively contribute to a more efficient, cost-effective, and forward-thinking approach to space exploration. As we witness the continuous evolution of 3D printing technology, its role in space flight becomes increasingly pivotal, heralding a new chapter in the commercialization and exploration of the cosmos.

Source: Makerbot

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