When mankind lands on Mars, chances are that her best friend won’t be a dog. More likely we’re going to be relying on remarkable self-replicating robots for our essential needs. And that’s exactly what a group of South African teens are working on with a working prototype of a space ready 3D printer they’re showing off at the World Robot Olympiad in Russia this Month.

And thanks to the caterpillar tracks on the bottom, you can even take it for a walk.

Team South Africa is made up of Jared Rheeders, Matthew Whyte and Rueben Pretorius, and their creation is called Delta 3. It combines a Delta arm RepRap printer – popular because it can print most of its own parts – and a LEGO EV3 controller to produce a moon-walking, not-quite-talking, low-g printer that can work with whatever materials it can find.

It’s an ambitious plan, but South Africa really is a world leader in robust, low cost 3D print technology and the team is very confident in their design. Even if it isn’t quite Mars-ready, it’s a very different spin on existing Delta-derivatives that could have many other applications – a typical problem with RepRap-based machines is that they aren’t very portable. For many, every time they are moved they must be carefully recalibrated, so simply overcoming that barrier and making a printer that works on wheels is an achievement in itself that they should already be proud of.

Space Invaders, as the teens call themselves, designed Delta 3 to assist humans to completing different tasks while in space.

“To comply with demands that astronauts have to endure in space, our engineers have designed a mobile 3D printer that integrates Delta geometry to create structures and parts at very high and accurate standards [sic],” says Whyte.

“We used LEGO EV3 as our main processor to manage the Arduino micro controller that controls the printer. With the use of the EV3 giro sensor, we were able to create a comprehensive programme that empowers Delta 3 to locate suitable working surfaces, we have produced Delta 3 as a sustainable solution,” says Pretorius.

The World Robot Olympiad will be held in Sochi from 21st to 23rd November.  We’ll be interviewing the team at length before they head off.

See Delta 3 in action below.

[Via – House4Hack, Image – YouTube]