This Moon Rover Wheel Could be 3D Printed on the Moon

NASA mechanical design engineer Richard Hagen, left, and ORNL researcher Michael Borish inspect a lunar rover wheel prototype that was 3D printed at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

When you think about sending missions to the Moon, every single gram counts on launch day. Therefore, it makes sense to live off the land when you arrive with in-situ resource utilization. For example, what if you could fly a rover without wheels and 3D print them out of lunar regolith when you get there?

It just might happen.

Researchers used a 3D printer to build the same design for a wheel that will be part of the upcoming NASA VIPER rover. It was done using additive manufacturing (another word for 3D printing), melting metal powder and laying down and bonding a large number of successive thin layers of materials into the designed shape.

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