April 30, 2014

3D Model of the 'Block Island' Meteorite, reproduced at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists finally have their hands on a piece of Mars, sort of. Nasa has announced that it has replicated a rock on Mars using a 3D printer.

This realistic looking, true-size facsimile of a martian meteorite was found in 2009 and called "Block Island." Block Island is the largest meteorite yet found on Mars. It is an iron-nickle meteorite about the size of a small ice chest.

Most meteorites break up when hitting the ground because today's martian atmosphere is not dense enough to slow them down enough. Scientists say this meteorite could have landed on Mars intact only if it had two things: a very specific entry point into the atmosphere and a very shallow flight path. That would slow it down enough to keep it from breaking apart upon landing.

This is a false-color, red-green-blue composite view generated from images taken through the Pancam's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer filters. The exaggerated color is used for enhancing the visibility of differences among the types of rock and soil materials. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The 3D model is processed from precise measurements and stereo images taken five years ago by Opportunity's panoramic camera, or PanCam installed on a rover. Researcher Kris Capraro at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California says one reason the rock could not be replicated back in 2009 is that the rover could not see every square inch of the meteorite. The missing data created holes in the computer model. That made the 3D model unfit for 3D printing.

Last summer, said Capraro, researchers solved the problem of filling in the missing data and built several small models of the meteorite.

It was pretty cool to have these small models, but for researchers, creating a life-size model was the only "natural" way to "visualize fully what Opportunity beamed home as a 2D image to humankind on Earth."

Capraro and his colleages used software which is usually used to create navigation maps for planning rover drive paths to create depth meshes of the meteorite's surface from six positions, then combined them into a 3D digital model.

Since the model was much bigger than the 3D printer's building space, researchers divided the computer model of the meteorite into 11 sections. They then used a FDM 3D printer to build each part layer by layer.

It took 305 hours and 36 minutes to print the parts. Then the parts were assembled and they finished by painting it to match the real rock's color based on rover images.

Researchers created each of 11 pieces in the 3D printer and glued them together to build the true-size model. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"It's been an interesting challenge to create the large 3D model," said Capraro. "It's the next best thing to bringing back real Martian rock samples back to Earth."


Source: NASA


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

Maybe you also like:


alvaro wrote at 6/6/2014 4:22:22 PM:

Interesting ! we could find evidences of ancient life printed in the stones without bring the original one to earth.

Leon wrote at 5/22/2014 8:26:43 PM:

So NASA makes replica of stones from Mars, and maybe some terrain to it. Sounds familiar. Maybe they soon send humans to Mars, but for real...

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive