3D printed tools for the AMADEE-18 Mars field mission 3 minutes spent reading
Innovation

3D printed tools for the AMADEE-18 Mars field mission

Katharina Becker
Katharina works as a freelance journalist in Frankfurt am Main, specializing in economic and financial topics.

When the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) simulates its Mars mission in the deserts of Oman in February, they will be using an important tool manufactured by the voestalpine 3D metal printer.

People all over the world are electrified by the dream of colonizing Mars. The inhospitable deserts of Oman provide the perfect test area for the Austrian Space Forum. Over four weeks in February the analog astronauts will simulate life on the red plant under “real” conditions. A special tool manufactured using the voestalpine 3D metal printer will also be on board the AMADEE-18 mission. People all over the world are electrified by the dream of colonizing Mars. The inhospitable deserts of Oman provide the perfect test area for the Austrian Space Forum. Over four weeks in February the analog astronauts will simulate life on the red plant under “real” conditions. A special tool manufactured using the voestalpine 3D metal printer will also be on board at the AMADEE-18 mission.

Metal printing for special requirements

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The AMADEE-18 Mars Simulation takes place in Oman in February 2018. Copyright: Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), Paul Santek

The voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center GmbH in Düsseldorf developed a highly sophisticated scoop for taking samples in the earthly version of Mars in Oman where some of the desert sand is as compact as rock. The tool needs to be extremely resistant in order to chip off samples of the surface. At the same time, it is essential that no particles of the tool become detached, contaminating the samples. “voestalpine was the ideal partner when it came to meeting these particular requirements,” says Dr. Gernot Grömer, Project Head at the Austrian Space Forum.
“The scoop is made from a new, corrosion-resistant and tough material with an additional protective coating to prevent wear,” explains Dr. Eric Klemp, CEO of the voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center. The titanium nitride coating is around ten times harder than conventional steel, and comes from the eifeler Group in Düsseldorf, a voestalpine subsidiary and specialist in high-tech coatings. “We combined our expertise in 3D printing and in coating to create a scoop with unbeatable properties for this application,” says Klemp.

Learning from experiments

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Mars tool before and after coating: the astronauts will take samples using the ring-shaped scoop. The extremely hard titanium nitride lends the tool its golden color.

Although it’s a logistical challenge to carry 3D printers on missions to space, the scientists are hoping to gain important insights from their experiments which can be used for a journey to Mars. The technology can be used to create components, consumables and spare parts, and even tools, as required. That could also have practical applications for life here on earth. It wouldn’t be the first time: battery-operated drills, solar cells, and scratchproof glasses are all the product of inventions for space travel.

 

 

 

 

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Katharina Becker