A global pandemic can become lonely, especially during the holidays. Avoid spreading the disease and make a new friend with the European Space Agency’s ExoMy rover.
The smaller, more animated “brother or sister” of European rover Rosalind Franklin ExoMars is now available for printing and editing at home. Anyone with $ 600 and access to a 3D printer can create their own ExoMy; find the source code, detailed installation guide and guides on GitHub.
“We focused on making the design as accessible and affordable as possible,” said ESA robotics trainee Miro Voellmy, who tipped equipment like the Raspberry Pi and finished electronics.
The structural elements take about two weeks to 3D print from Polylactic Acid (PLA), a biodegradable material made from plant starch. Once assembled, the ExoMy stands at a proud 16.5 inches – a piece of impressive 6.5-foot height – with a non-functional replica drill, solar panels and a camera mast.
Its “triple stand” suspension design allows the rover to cross obstacles as high as its own wheels without falling; each tire has its own engine and protruding tread for better traction over rough ground. If you plan to keep the ExoMy indoors only, ESA includes instructions for printing flexible bushings that slide over the wheels for a smoother passage (and less damage to your floors). Use a gamepad or mobile control device.
(Photo by the European Space Agency)
“Our goal is to make design as accessible and fun as possible,” agency intern Maximillian Ehrhardt said in a statement. ExoMy began its life as a one-time demonstrator at ESA’s Open Day 2018, where visitors were able to drive it through the Mars Yard laboratory test facility. “It was a big hit that made us think of a version that people could build themselves,” Ehrhardt added.
Best of all: it comes with interchangeable eyes, mouth and caps, so you can customize a small machine for every occasion. Eat your robotic heart, rover Rosalind Franklin ExoMars.
“ExoMy is more than a toy because it can serve as a cheap platform for research and prototyping for robotic experiments,” Voellmy added. “We hope that students or students will create their own ExoMy, to get acquainted with robotics and learn about the full-size ExoMars rover, which should be launched in 2022.”
The agency is also working on a mini version of its speed-optimized Sample Fetch Rover, planned as part of ESA’s contribution to the International Mars Sample Return venture.