Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) material parts
RedEye On Demand
Eden Prairie, MN

Wyle is a leading provider of high-tech science, aerospace engineering, and information technology services to the federal government on long-term outsourcing contracts. Wyle’s Integrated Science and Engineering Group in Houston, TX helped NASA prepare the Robonaut 2 (R2) dexterous robot.

While most current space robotic systems, such as robotic arms and exploration rovers, are designed to move large objects, R2’s tasks require more dexterity. Its mission is to work alongside astronauts, taking over repetitive and dangerous tasks. Its form factor and dexterity are designed such that R2 can use the same space tools and work in environments suited to astronauts.

One of Wyle’s responsibilities under this contract was building a one-to-one scale, high-fidelity mockup of R2 for use in the simulation of potential missions. The exterior of the mockup had to duplicate the geometry and appearance of the actual R2. The limbs of the mockup had to be easily moved into the same positions as the real robot. And, the mockup had to withstand rough handling that it might receive during simulation and training.

CAD models of R2 were sent to RedEye On Demand for quotation. Mechanical properties of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) materials were assessed. The ABS (Acrylonitrile/ Butadiene/Styrene) material met Wyle’s strength and durability requirements. Fused Deposition Modeling is an additive manufacturing process that builds plastic parts layer-by-layer, using data from CAD files.

It took two weeks and cost $36,000 for RedEye to make all of the parts required for the mockup. The interior of the mockup is made from square tubing to provide strength. The mockup is positioned by tension in its joints like a mannequin.

R2 flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in February on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s last flight. Initially, R2 will be deployed on a fixed pedestal inside the ISS for operational testing. Next steps include adding a leg for climbing through the corridors of the ISS, and further upgrades to go outside in the vacuum of space.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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