Home Research & Education FHNW Students 3D print functional Mars rover

FHNW Students 3D print functional Mars rover

Students from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) build a functional Mars rover using SLS 3D printed parts and take 6th place at the European Mars Rover Challenge (ERC) in Poland.

International Space and Robotics Contest

For the first time in the history of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, a team of nine Bachelor students from three different fields of study successfully participated in the European Rover Challenge (ERC). Within a year, the students built a Mars rover and placed 6th in the competition out of 19 teams from all over Europe, being the only newcomer in the top 10.

“It was a bit like a ‘fish out of water’ experience, because we didn’t have any inside knowledge of the competition”, explains Nadine Richard.

The 5th semester mechanical engineering student was in charge of the gripper, deep sampling and the robotic arm.

Success with the right goals

For the first participation in the ERC, it was important for the FHNW team to be able to compete with a functioning rover. In the four disciplines navigation, probing, maintenance and science, the Mars rover had to prove its skills.

“In the development, we focused especially on the drivetrain, as well as the manipulator (robotic arm and gripper), since these two components are elementary for all four tasks in the competition”, emphasizes Nadine.

Components from the 3D printer

3D printing played a key role in the development of the rover.

“A big advantage of additive manufacturing is the complexity of the parts you can design, as well as the different technologies and materials ready to use,” Nadine explains.

For the tires and the signal mast, the team used the FDM printers available at the university. Due to the high demands on the gripper, selective laser sintering (SLS) was used as another 3D printing technology. High durability – due to forces from all directions –  and extreme lightness – due to the gripper’s center of gravity being far out – led the students to Sintratec.

“The sponsored components from Sintratec exceeded all our set requirements and performed excellently in all four tasks of the competition”, Nadine happily points out.

SLS convinces tomorrow’s engineers

Not only the high durability and stability of the SLS components printed with PA12 on the Sintratec S2 convinced Nadine Richard’s team.

“Especially for this part, the fact that support structures are not needed and the high accuracy are a real advantage”, explains the aspiring engineer.

The laser sintered parts are not just for prototyping but can be tested and used in their function without any restrictions.

“Sintratec gave us the opportunity to incorporate a technology which was new to us into the project and was always available to advise us. Due to the close proximity of our offices, we were even able to pick up our parts from the Experience Center ourselves,” Nadine sums up.

She intends to continue using the advantages of the SLS technology in future robotic projects.

“The greatest advantage of the SLS technology is the incredible accuracy and durability of the components,” said Nadine Richard, Student of Mechanical Engineering, FHNW.

Find out more about the FHNW at fhnw.ch.

For more information about Sintratec, please visit sintratec.com.


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