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MSL Curiosity Wheel Large Multi-Material 3D Print

Curiosity the Mars Science Laboratory rover has large wheels. However, their wheel is slightly problematic in that the thin aluminum has been penetrated by rocks on the martian surface. Additionally, it is a completely rigid body. This big wheel print looked at seeing what the wheel could be like if it was a combination of materials – both rigid and flexible. The design was in Autodesk Fusion 360, and the flexible portions are inlayed with the rigid portions, making sure that the two materials would be captured / attached securely.

Several test coupons were printed prior to this in order to dial in the settings for speeds and layer height combining rigid and flexible. The print took 5.5 days long on the BigRep. Rigid filament = PLA, flexible filament = TPU. Nozzle size = 0.6mm, layer height = 0.4mm. Midway through, the print needed rescuing with kapton tape to keep the print on the build platform. The print completed successfully and it was an interesting experiment using large format 3D printing with a lot of lessons learned.

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