MIT researchers recently turned to 3D printing in order to build a mobile robot. Leveraging one advantage of 3D printing, the robot’s body was printed in one piece capable of movement using hydraulics. Both in universities and at home, roboticists are looking more to 3D printing to build unique parts, rapid prototypes, and even robotic prostheses. Though the relationship between the two industries is just beginning to gain momentum, there are already myriad ways in which 3D printing has opened up possibilities for makers and businesses in the field of robotics.
Additive Manufacturing is changing the way manufacturers design and create tooling. Robotic arm end effectors are just one (great) example.
Advantages of 3D printed robotic arm end effects are:
Engineers can ignore the rules of DFM (Design for Manufacture.)
- Vacuum channels were built into the part that could not have been machined into the center of the tool if traditionally manufactured. These tubes would have had to be on the outside of the part and would likely be damaged over repeated runs.
- The tool would also have to be designed from machined billet blocks, fabricated sheet metal and stock components, then welded and assembled. Design simplification makes for less work on the part of the engineer.
- The simplified end component is lighter because all excess material that would be in a traditionally manufactured design can be removed and that actually reduces cost instead of adding cost through additional CNC machining time. Lighter end effectors allow for larger payloads for smaller arms and much better motion control by reducing the torque on the end of what is effectively a very long lever.
Manufacturers make no concessions while realizing cost and time savings.
- The end effector tool is just as durable as a traditionally manufactured tool and is expected to last for just as many cycles.
- The traditionally manufactured end effector takes hours of fabrication on multiple machines and a lot of labor assembling and welding.
- By switching to an additive manufacturing method (FDM) in this instance, the customer was able to reduce manufacturing time from 20 days down to 3 (85% reduction in lead time) while also cut fabrication costs by 94%!
Check out the video for the whole story on Robotic Arm Tooling.