The Mars Phoenix Lander has now gone where two predecessors failed to go. The Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet in 1999 because of a navigation error when “English” and metric units were confused. The Mars Polar Lander (MPL), was lost near the planet’s South Pole not long after that. As we reported here, the Mars. Phoenix Lander uses technology from the MPL, cutting its cost dramatically. The Phoenix landed Sunday night, with solar panels and a camera deploying just as planned. The first photos show a landscape that looks like a red paved parking lot.
We’re learning already. There is a close-up view of polygon-shaped formations (previously seen from space). Expansion and contraction of ice are believed to cause the shapes, something like the cracks that form in asphalt driveways over the winter. And that’s a great sign because it means the Lander may be close to ice crystals that may hold the clues to previous life. Next step: The specially developed shovel begins digging—chopping soil that can be tested in the on-board labs.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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