No one said it would be easy to conduct scientific experiments robotically on Mars. And in fact the Phoenix Mars Lander continues to run into nagging problems. What’s very interesting is how engineers working with scientists on Earth are developing workarounds to solve the problems. It’s engineering at its best, and it reminds me a little of the steps taken on the ill-fated Apollo 13, although the Mars mission is not life-or-death.
In the latest problem, soil dumped on a screen is clumping, and not passing through to analysis equipment, even after vibration. Engineers decided to employ a motorized rasp on the scoop that was actually designed to dig out granite-like ice below the polar surface. Tests show that the scoop, when tilted, does drop fine particles of soil while it is being vibrated by the rasp. Previously, the scoop was just dumped outside down, dumping the soil.
Look for tests in a few days that will chemically analyze the soil.
These new 3D-printing technologies and printers include some that are truly boundary-breaking: a sophisticated new sub-$10,000, 10-plus materials bioprinter, the first industrial-strength silicone 3D-printing service, and a clever twist on 3D printing and thermoforming for making high-quality realistic models.
Using simulation to guide the drafting process can speed up the design and production of 3D-printed nanostructures, reduce errors, and even make it possible to scale up the structures. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a model that does this.
Engineers need workhorse materials with beefy mechanical properties for industrial designs made with 3D printing. Very few have been designed from the ground up for additive manufacturing, but that picture is beginning to change.
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