KEY POINTS

  • ESA's Planetary Robotics Laboratory designed a mini version of the ExoMars rover
  • The smaller version, ExoMy, can be built by anyone with a 3D printer
  • ExoMy's design has all the key features of the ExoMars rover and includes a customizable face

A six-wheeled rover designed by the European Space Agency's Planetary Robotics Laboratory is a mini version of the agency's Rosalind Franklin ExoMars.

For €500 ($598) or less, space geeks, or just about anyone, with a 3D printer can build their own ExoMy, the younger and smaller sibling of the real Mars rover, thanks to the Laboratory.

3D printing the ExoMy's blueprint allows students and enthusiasts to teach themselves robotics. The result reproduces ExoMars' "triple-bogie" wheel design, which enables it to conquer bumpy obstacles in its way -- while keeping all of its wheels on the ground.

“Anyone with a 3D printer can build their own ExoMy, at an estimated budget of €500 or less,” explains Swiss trainee Miro Voellmy. “The source code is available on GitHub along with a step-by-step assembly guide and tutorials.

The mini rover is about 42 cm (16.5 in) high, and impressively reproduces key features of the larger version on a non-functional basis. These include a drill, solar panels across its back wings, and a camera mast featuring a customizable smiley face, mouth, and hat, according to an ESA's article published Monday on its site.

“We focused on making the design as affordable and accessible as possible. It uses a Raspberry Pi computer and off-the-shelf electronic parts available online and at any hobby shop. Our hope is that school or university students will make their own ExoMy, to become familiar with robotics, and learn about the full-sized ExoMars rover, which is scheduled for launch in 2022," Miro added.

ExoMy is controlled using a gamepad or a web browser. The ESA claims that the the 3D-printed rover is more than a toy, as it can serve as low-cost research and prototyping for robotic experiments.

The 3D printing field has come a long way in recent years, and its influence on technology continues to have an impact. ExoMy is one of the fascinating robotic projects that are possible through 3D printing enables, and there's more to come.