A Dutch team intends on traversing the most southerly continent in a 3D printed solar powered rover.
Clean2Antarctica is a demonstration project to show what’s possible with today’s technology. Their mission:
“We dream of a green, nurturing and clean world in which we can keep inspiring each other to continue develop ourselves and our society. A circular society in which not only humans have rights, but everything that inhabits our planet. Even materials.
We want to accelerate the transition to a circular society because it is the right thing to do. We need to venture out into the unknown, since we don’t exactly know how to build a circular society. Therefore we need to experiment. Our expedition will result in new building blocks that will help us to build a circular society.”
And what is that expedition? They plan to 3D print a two-person mobile rover powered by ten huge solar panels and travel from a base camp to the South Pole, a distance of 1200km, and they’re going both ways for a total of 2400km. Note that this also involves an elevation change of over 2100m as they approach the Pole.
The project revolves around the “Solar Voyager”, a two-person solar powered vehicle that is designed to work in the snows of Antarctica. They’ve tested the vehicle concept in Iceland, so it is likely to work.
However, Antarctica is a place of extreme conditions, even in the upcoming summer. I suspect the most difficult challenge will be routing around or over the numerous large cracks in the ice that can doom inattentive drivers.
The vehicle is partially 3D printed. Designers wished to demonstrate the viability of recycling materials, and collected stray drink bottles to recover PET material.
This material was then 3D printed into 4000 “hexcore” blocks as seen here. These blocks have specially designed edges to enable them to snap together easily. This enables the team to quickly build arbitrary shapes, including the Solar Voyager.
They intend on setting out on their mission at the end of this month, with the expedition expected to take 30 days. However, the Solar Voyager will be equipped with 47 days of supplies in case of delays. One item not included in the supplies is water, which will be melted along the route by special equipment for the voyagers.
In today’s world we constantly see amazing feats of science and exploration, but I have to say that this is still going to be a very difficult expedition. Antarctica is an unforgiving place, having claimed many who have attempted journeys across it in the past.
Nevertheless, we wish the team well and hope the 3D printed vehicle holds up throughout all 2400kms.