Composite Rover Wheel

I mentored the project that designed and fabricated a composite wheel for the Polaris rover.

This project developed a composite wheel. The wheel is designed and molds are created. A CAD model is used to create molds that are cut from foam. The molds are glued together and cut by a CNC machine, or robot arm. The mold is sanded down and a layer of 5-minute epoxy is applied. The epoxy is cured in an oven at 150 degrees F for an hour. The layer of epoxy is sanded down to a smooth surface and a second layer of epoxy is applied and sanded. The mold is cleaned and a layer of sealant is applied. The sealant dries for 24 hours. 3 layers of mold release are applied to ensure the composite-epoxy mixture does not stick to the foam mold.

A layup is performed when pieces of carbon fiber or Kevlar are soaked with epoxy and the excess is removed. The strips are laid in a pattern in the mold to make the part the right shape and thickness. The time-lapse above details this process.

The part on the mold is vacuum bagged so that it cures at high temperature and pressure. The part is placed in the oven at 250 degrees F for 8 hours. Once it cools, the composite is hard. It is removed from the foam mold and trimmed to create the final wheel.

Below is a video presentation of composite wheel design and manufacture.