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3D Printing with Robots

Over the past several years 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, has developed significantly. Many industries have adopted this technology to their production lines with the fastest growth being seen in the manufacturing industry. The incorporation of 3D printing in manufacturing has created some new challenges including the need to additivity build large objects and the need for increased productivity. Manufacturers are turning to robotics as a cost-effective solution for these issues. Top robotic manufacturers FANUC and ABB are among those helping to introduce robots to this latest production trend.

One way robots are being integrated with 3D printers is by using them to automatically dispense materials into the 3D printer. Used robots fitted with a material deposition head to their arm are able to precisely place materials which results in larger and more lightweight thermoplastic parts. The automotive and aerospace industries have seen great success with the adopting of robotics for material deposition.

Used ABB robots like the ABB IRB 2600-20 have also been used for depositing materials to the 3D printer platform with the integrated of an inkjet head to their robotic manipulator arm. These articulated robots allow for on-demand creation of more complicated designs with their programmability. ABB robots have also been adopted by the construction industry in order to allow for the additive manufacturing of large structures of up to 14 meters in height. The large work envelopes provided by six axis robots has helped to expand 3D printing capabilities.

Other ways robots are getting involved with 3D printing is by assisting with the different steps of the printing process. Industrial robots are used to automate the tending of printers by automatically loading and unloading a 3D printer’s build plate. They may also perform robotic pick and place tasks, automated packaging, and robotic disassembly. Used FANUC robots like the FANUC M-20ia have been used in post-printing steps including washing, curing, and finishing of 3D parts. During the finishing of 3D objects, a FANUC FANUC M-710ic may be used to trim or remove flash resulting in higher quality finishes.

As mentioned above the adoption of robotics for 3D printing helps to expand the scale of objects created, a key benefit of robotic 3D printing. Robots have a much larger work envelop and combined with their range of motion from several axes allows for the reliable production of bigger objects. Not only do the multi-axis designs of robots allow for the printing of larger objects, but also the printing of more complicated designs. Robot axes provide degrees of freedom that allow them to be able to print from any direction and at difficult to reach angles, which opens up design possibilities.

Robotic 3D printing also increases productivity since they are capable of operating at faster speeds. Their increased speed combined with precision that is repeatable further improves productivity rates. Errors are eliminated with robots since they are programmed to follow application parameters accurately every time. High quality products are produced with no deviation from object to object. Their accuracy also reduces material waste, decreasing production costs and helping to further increase product quality.


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