3D Printing NASA’s Curiosity Rover Model

I decided to build the 3D printed Curiosity rover model released by NASA, and ran into some problems with print bed adhesion. Whoever designed this model had a 3D printer with better print bed adhesion than mine. My first few printed parts would lift from my print bed.

Some of this is unavoidable, the natural orientation of some parts dictate minimal surface area. The wheels, for example, have to sit with their narrow side edges on the bed because that is the only flat side. Fortunately wheels are round and produced minimal stress.

In contrast, the body of the rover is a large rectangular solid with sharp corners. This is a recipe for lifts and they released the STL files with some pre-generated brims to help the corners stick. Unfortunately that was not enough for me, because some of the corners still lifted off the print surface. Fortunately this was only a minor cosmetic issue, since the bottom does not need to be absolutely flat to mesh with any other part.

Another cosmetic issue is the radiothermal generator at the back, which ramped up more aggressively than my Pulse XE revision D printer could handle with PETG. Fortunately this is a bottom-facing surface and shouldn’t be too much of a detraction.

The wheel spokes were the most problematic with their fine detail requiring a lot of filament retraction as the print head moves from one tiny feature to another. In my experience, retraction-heavy prints work much better in PLA than PETG, in hindsight that’s what I should have used.

An interesting nod to convenience is that, in addition to publishing STL for individual parts, the creator of this project also included STL files with many parts laid out to be printed all at once. The upside is that there’s a lot less overhead. The downside is that failures can be troublesome.

3 thoughts on “3D Printing NASA’s Curiosity Rover Model

  1. You want the sharp corner to be in the center of the helper disk for maximum effectiveness. If it isn’t slicing right once you add the disk, export the whole plate as an STL and bring it back in, or find some other way to merge the STLs using your slicer.

    The wheels look like a nightmare but the MMRTG may be helped by reduced layer height.

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