NASA’s Curiosity Rover Model Print Cleanup and Assembly

NASA published a 3D printable static display model for Curiosity rover, and one of the things they offered to make printing easier are STL files that have already laid out many parts so they can be printed all at once. The upside is a lot less work on setup and less time tending to the printer. The downside is that if one part fails, it dooms the entire print.

The rover suspension parts are all in a single large multipart print. The real Curiosity rover suspension structure is cylindrical, and this model tries to maintain that shape, meaning there’s very little surface area contacting the print bed at the bottom of the cylinder. In the first few failed attempts, one of the suspension parts (and never the same one twice) would pop free from the print bed and wreck havoc.

To work around this, I told MatterControl to add a brim on all parts to increase surface contact area. It allowed the print to complete, but now I have to cut all those brims off before I could proceed to assembly.

I started by cleaning up the wheel hubs and pressing them into wheels.

Following my tradition of rover building, I proceeded to build a rover wheel on a stick.

Which quickly led to a rocker-bogie assembly for one side of the rover.

Unfortunately, the rocker does not articulate on this model. Its angle relative to the body is fixed. So this particular portion of the model is no more functional than the smaller version. However, the bogie does articulate, and all four of the corner wheels can steer.

Having built one side, it was easy to build the mirror side and put everything together. I noticed I had two extra steering brackets left over. Reviewing the large multipart print, I now notice there are six steering brackets even though only four rover wheels could steer. I shrug and move on.

Assembly of the robot arm was straightforward following the directions, leaving rover head installation as the final step. The static model is complete and I can admire it in its entirety.

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