Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ESA presents ExoMy rover that anyone can 3D print, assemble and program

The European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover, which after missing its 2020 launch window, is now slated to make its way to the red planet in 2022, has a younger’ sibling’ – ExoMy. The space agency has made available the blueprints and software for this mini-version of the full-size Mars explorer for free so that anyone can 3D print, assemble and program their own ExoMy.

The six-wheeled ExoMy rover is 42 cm high. Its structural parts take around two weeks to 3D print out of PLA, a biodegradable material made out of plant starch. ExoMy rovers reproduce key features of its 2-meter tall big ‘sister’ on a non-functional basis, including a drill, solar panels across its back wings, and a camera mast featuring a customizable smiley face, mouth, and hat.

Europe’s Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover has a younger ’sibling’ – ExoMy.
Europe’s Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover has a younger ’sibling’ – ExoMy. Credit: ESA

ExoMy also uses the Rosalind Franklin rover’s ‘triple-bogie’ suspension design, which allows it to cross high obstacles as high as its own wheel while maintaining stability. Each wheel has its own motor, and its tread has protrusions to assist traction over rough ground. But flexible sleeves can also be printed out to slid over the wheels for smoother passage over level surfaces.

ExoMy is more than a toy as it can serve as a low-cost research and prototyping platform for robotic experiments,explains Swiss trainee Miro Voellmy. “And this version of the rover is not a frozen design, with people coming back with ideas for improvements, such as a pan and tilt camera on the mast, which they are offering to help out on. For internal testing, we are also working on a mini-version of the speed-optimized Sample Fetch Rover planned as part of ESA’s contribution to the International Mars Sample Return endeavor.

ESA estimates that the material needed to print it and other components will cost most people about €500 (close to $600) or less. The source code is available on GitHub along with a step-by-step assembly guide and tutorials. The idea behind ExoMy seems above all to be that university students will use the design as a way to learn about robotics and the ExoMars mission.