Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Man Combines 3D Printing with a Robotic Arm to Increase Efficiency

ST Medical Devices

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arms1Technology! You have to love it, whether you are using your GPS to navigate through unfamiliar terrain, or if you are 3D printing a part for your car, that is no longer in production.  Without a doubt, technology makes our lives a lot more efficient (most of the time).

If you were to ask a futurist, what he/she thinks the two up-and-coming forms of technology are, there is a good chance that both 3D printing and robotics would be mentioned.

One man, named Florian Maurer has found a way to utilize both 3D printing and robotics in an attempt to make the process of using his 3D printer much more efficient. Maurer, backed a Kickstarter campaign back in March, for a miniature robotic arm, called the uArm. However, even before he found this robotic arm on Kickstarter, he had already begun coming up with plans for his idea.

As we know, if you were to walk into a modern day factory, you would probably see a plethora of robotic arms in action, on an assembly line. Factories utilize these types of robotics, in order to save on labor costs.  Robots can’t do everything that humans can do, but they can be programmed to do tedious, repetitive tasks.

Maurer took this idea, and decided to implement it in combination with his 3D printer. He was tired of how inefficient and time consuming the 3D printing process was, on the person overseeing the process. He was tired of having to perform tedious tasks that required him to check up on his 3D printer so frequently.

“Imagine setting up a 12 hour long print to run overnight, only to come back the next day and find it warped so much it’s lifted the blue tape from the platform,” said Maurer on his blog. “Unable to counter the physics of contracting plastics as they cool, you decide to split the model into smaller parts which offers you both faster print times per part (useful if errors occur) and less warping. However, now every several hours you have to come back to remove the print and start a new print. Not convenient at all. Well, no more! It’s the future now, and we have robots to help us.”

Maurer decided to utilize his uArm in order to make this process much more efficient. His original idea was to set up and program his robotic arm to load and unload queues of printing jobs on his printer, so that when he wasn’t around, he could continue to utilize his 3D printer to print more than one job. (see his uArm in action below)

As you can see, it works quite efficiently in unloading one build plate, and loading the next. It utilizes a suction cup to attach itself to the glass build plates.  While this was a great first step in improving the 3D printing
process, Maurer’s 3D printer required more.

“My printer shipped with binder clips to clamp the glass platform to the heating bed. These binder clips need to be removed to swap out the glass platforms, but they each require a lot of force and dexterity,” explained Maurer.”

So he implemented a magnetic clamp system, in which the robotic arm simply drops the clamps onto the build plate.  The clamps attach themselves to the metal portion of the area surrounding the plate. Below you can see the robotic arm removing the magnetic clamp from Maurers 3D printer.

While this seems to be a solution for now, Maurer’s plans are not yet complete. He next hopes to print a matching magnetic mechanism for the other side of the build plate. After that? We shall see….

The combination of 3D printing and robotics defintely has a future together, not just in factories, but in homes as well. It probably isn’t very feasible to expect many people to have both 3D printers and robotic arms in their homes quite yet, however, in the next decade or so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find this very common within homes.

What do you think? How could Maurer improve upon his idea? There are certainly other tasks that his robotic arm could be programmed to perform in the 3D printing process.  What could they be? Discuss in the ‘3D printing combined with robotics‘ thread on 3DPB.com

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[Source: cuddleburrito via hackaday]

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