Autodesk and NASA's JPL partner for next-gen space exploration | An update from AU 2018 in Las Vegas

For decades, the design of spacefaring vehicles has followed a consistent and pragmatic process; ensure the vehicle, payload, design, and material selection is kept to a bare minimum. This reduces the weight and therefore the overall cost of sending it into space.

But that is now all in the past after Autodesk partnered with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and set about exploring better design and fabrication alternatives. Using Autodesk's generative design technologies in products like Fusion 360 and Netfabb they have designed something quite out of this world. Looking more like a martian creature, the resulting design is significantly more lightweight, yet remaining strong where it counts. This is how designs in nature evolve, and where Autodesk have clearly taken their inspiration from.

The generative design process works by initially feeding a number of starting criteria such as material selections, size constraints, or manufacturing methods. This results in many different optimised design options which engineers can further explore and iterate upon. By using such an automated process, it removes much of the human bias which can often negatively affect older and more traditional design methods.

The vehicle itself was manufactured using three different methods:

1. Internal structure: 3D printed.

2. External structure: Sand casting.

3. Legs: 3-axis CNC machining.

For now, the vehicle is still in the research stage while it continues to provide the designers and engineers insights into the design process' full potential. And in doing so it might just solve some of the complex weight challenges when sending such crafts further into space.

Find out more about Fusion 360.