NASA’s 3D Printable Curiosity Rover

When I take Sawppy out for some publicity, people frequently ask about the 3D printable Curiosity rover static model released by NASA. Some mistakenly thought Sawppy was the NASA-released design, others wanted to know how the rovers compared. I couldn’t answer the latter because I never printed the NASA rover, to the surprise of some, so I thought I should do it at least once.

NASA’s 3D printing resources page for a printable Curiosity points to a GitHub directory that actually has two printable models. I’ve seen the smaller one at a MatterHackers event, printed by another attendee who left her little rover on Sawppy’s table to keep my rover company.

The small model has limited articulation. All six wheels can roll, but cannot steer and it could only sit on a flat surface because its rocker-bogie suspension joints are fixed. I also noticed the robot arm joint articulation doesn’t match that of the real rover’s. Still, it is undeniably a representation of Curiosity and a cute little model.

Since I’ve seen the little one, I decided to skip it and try building the larger one. “Large” is relative, of course, it would still be much smaller than Sawppy. Another important difference is that it is an unmotorized static display model, which is actually the main reason I had not tried to build it. I wanted a rover that moved!

But I’m glad I’ve built it, because it was a good study into the different compromises this model made for the sake of being 3D printing friendly.

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