German Aerospace Centre uses AM to develop fully functioning space robot prototype
TransRoPorter is an exploration robot designed using Stratasys FDM technology for unmanned flights to Mars and is set for launch in four to five years.
Additive manufacturing is pushing the limits of space capabilities for the German Aerospace Centre (Das Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.).
In order to develop a fully-functioning prototype of its “TransRoPorter” (TRP), the aerospace centre looked to Stratasys to help them do it through FDM 3D printing.
This exploration robot, dubbed TransRoPorter, was built at the Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics (Institut für Robotik und Mechatronik). The robot was designed for unmanned flights to Mars and set for launch in four to five years.
Using a Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer, the research team 3D printed a working prototype. The team saw significant reduction in production times compared to traditional methods.
“For us it was clear, a prototype made out of metal was too expensive and complex in production,” explains Dr. Kaj Fuehrer, Head of System Building Technology South (Leiter Systemhaus Technik Süd). Therefore the team decided on a 3D printed prototype, which is not only produced faster than the alternative out of metal, but also with less associated costs.
“In the planning of this project, we always preferred 3D printing technology,” he continues. “It became evident to us that using 3D printing for the production of the TransRoPorter was truly the least expensive, fastest and most elegant solution. Everyone involved in the project is delighted with the outcome.”
Dr. Fuehrer is developing and testing the 3D printed robot prototype together with his colleagues Dr. Stefano Seriani und Dr. Armin Wedler.
The TransRoPorter is made from two components: the moveable TRP Rover-Unit, made to navigate in unstructured terrain, and the Payload-Module (PM), which carries spare parts, communication technology and scientific tools. To ensure functionality and practicality of the 3D printed prototype, rigorous testing is required.
“Our prototypes are often very complex and typically push the boundaries of what is possible,” says Dr. Fuehrer. “Therefore, it is important to choose the appropriate production method and material, so that we can achieve the desired functionality without any limitations.”
Using the Stratasys Fortus900mc Production 3D Printer, the research team are 3D printing large parts in FDM thermoplastic materials. According to Dr. Fuehrer, the fit was extremely important so when the team was working with the FDM technology, they determined that ASA material had minimal to no distortion.
Going forward, the centre will look to include additive manufacturing to other initiatives beyond TransRoPorter.
“This new knowledge has opened them up to a new set of possibilities within product development,” adds Dr. Fuehrer.