The 3D printing technology has grown a lot in recent days, because of its advancements in technology according to the current needs. 3D printing provides customized tool variants, that’s why the robotic industry and additive manufacturing go hand in hand.
With the help of a few research studies, it is forecasted that the global 3D Printing Robots Market was estimated at USD 1.4 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 4.9 billion by 2026.
Additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing facilitate prototyping, tooling, manufacturing, and that results in lower costs and time to market. It also helps robotics engineers to accomplish their targets and goals in a limited period. It offers a variety of benefits in the robotic market which includes rapid prototyping and optimizing the design of the product.
How 3D Printing is Helping in the Evolution of Modern Robotics?
The American Inventor George C. Devol had invented the first modern robot in 1950. Unimate was originally used to automate the production of television picture tubes, and the movement of Unimate’s 4000-pound was controlled by commands stored on a magnetic drum. And, it was integrated into general motors corporation production to die-cast metal components in the year 1962.
After the bugs were sorted out in the unimate design, it became a popular feature among the assembly lines. Few studies state that around 8500 machines were originally sold and half of them were used in automotive manufacturing plants.
They also reveal that there are approximately eight models of Unimate, which are currently available in today’s market. And, Unimate’s got adapted to applications such as material handling, die casting, and machine tool loading at a rate of 98 percent.
In the current era, 3D printing has become an important component in the robotics industry. With the help of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Directed Energy Deposition (DED), metal products produced are cheaper when compared with traditional manufacturing methods.
One of the 3D printing companies has experimented with 3D printing by fitting it to the existing robotic production tools. And, they had announced their Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator in the year 2016.
The FDM technology is fitted to an industrial 8-axis motion arm, and they make use of deposition 3D printing to produce some of the larger parts on 3D printers. Another advantage of allowing freeform manufacturing with more intricate designs results in quicker production than the existing 3D printers.
The demand for the availability of 3D printing to hobbyists has resulted in more accessibility of robotics than ever before. Some of the open-source robot projects like Inmoov and Poppy are made in a such way, so they can be used and accessed by anyone. Anyone without the knowledge of robotics can download and print on a desktop 3D printer, which gives a feel of bringing robotics into the home like never before.
Nowadays, 3D printing acts as an ever-greater fixture of the robotic industry. Here are the two main areas of robotics where 3D printing has made a huge difference.
Two Vital Forms of 3D Printed Robotics
In the hard robotics category, robots are made with strong and rigid structures. But, it can be only moved through actuators, a component that helps in mechanical movement at joints between the parts.
Most robots available today are made using the hard robotics form, including the recently landed NASA Mars Rover Perseverance. Robots in this sector are very easy to construct and program, as well as are made stronger.
And, 11 components on perseverance were made using 3D printing. Five of them are much important, which are a two-piece titanium casing, a mounting frame, and two support struts. They were used in the Rover’s Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), and it is a device used for x-raying Mar’s Surface and detecting signs of fossilized microbes.
Remarkably, NASA has stated that 3D printing has helped in reducing the mass of these components by three or four times. And, it also helped to reduce fuel consumption in both the lander and the Rover.
Commonly, it’s a known fact that 3D printing always focuses on metals and plastics. And, which are relatively easy to mold materials, and they are extremely strong and durable. Mostly hard robotics relies on these materials, and the precision 3D printing allows complex components far easier to produce.
Many 3D printed robotics projects use 3D printing to manufacture both the metal skeleton as well as plastic covering. It is a more targeted and customizable process compared to other methods. Additional benefits of 3D printing are improving cost efficiency and reduce waste materials. It always helps in the development of their robotic arms and allows greater freedom in design.
Soft Robotics is a much younger industry while compared to hard robotics. It differs a lot from hard robotics. Here, it uses more flexible materials with actuators and is built throughout the structure, allows animal-like free movement.
Gadgets like Robotic shoe insoles are produced using the soft robotics form for helping those who struggle to walk by aiding with balance. And, it is also made in such a way to reduce the discomfort for those with flat feet. Even life jackets with mechanical components are built to help the wearer stay afloat.
Additionally, hard robotics are used for the most advanced and lifelike robots, and soft robotics are leveraged to create skin and muscles in the medical industry.
The complexity of the designs and materials in manufacturing becomes more efficient with the help of 3D printing technology. Usage of elastic or flexible materials can withstand stress and doesn’t lose its shape. Here, Silicone is the commonly used synthetic plastic but they are very difficult to mold effectively by traditional methods. So, 3D printing makes it any easier to process even with silicone resins.
Researchers are allowed to print silicone structures in a variety of shapes and sizes, it can be customized according to the needs. It is combined with pre-programmed or artificial intelligence-based robotic components which are applicable for several applications.
3D printing companies have developed a silicone 3D printed robotic gripper tool. It has a three-pronged hand on the end of an arm. It is much helpful for disabled or elderly people to retrieve unreachable items without getting injured.
InMoov remains one of the oldest robotic projects; it is invented by French sculptor and designer Gael Langevin. It has been reenergized by 3D printing technology and is led away to future development.
Starting from a single prosthetic hand to an advanced full upper body, InMoov is limited in its functions, (i.e) restricted to simple movements and gestures. Apart from this, it has more intricate components that can move independently, which include fingers and eyes.
The specialty of InMoov relies on their publicly designed website, and their code is open-source. That implies anyone can build our model of a desktop 3D printer with the required build volume, three servo motors, an Arduino Uno, Mega microcontroller, MyRobot Lab, and Python scripting software, as well as the required printing materials. InMoovs are used for teaching, computing, and programming.
Poppy is developed by Matthieu Lapeyre in the year 2012. He built this robot for his Ph.D. thesis. It is commonly called a bipedal humanoid robot. It entirely relies on 3D printed technology, and it has the capability of fluid movement that includes walking.
Like InMoov, Poppy is also an open-source project, scalable, and it can be produced in any size to either fit or maximize the build volume of any 3D printer.
Here, Components can be added or removed to reproduce at mass-market levels, which allows them to build their custom characteristics. It can be programmed with any number of choice commands.
The web interface of the poppy allows the user to pre-program tasks, and it can be carried out & processed without any need for further input.
Ai build already has the commercialized service of 3D printing using robotic arms. Companies like Ai build with the help of 3D printing technology, they offer a range of different materials in a quicker time but results more cost-effectively.
This process is done in two combined aspects. Ai Sync allows clients to upload CAD designs, and automates the entire production process. Ai Sync is a cloud platform.
The monitoring capabilities of Ai Sync include detecting imperfections in the part, the robot’s efficiency, and a lot more. It has a series of multi-dimensional robotic arms and they are built with 3D printing technology. It also uses artificial intelligence to program the system to print.
Ai Build process is cheaper than all the forms of 3D printing methods, it is not only cheaper than the traditional manufacturing methods. The major benefit of Ai Build is reduced production time. The Ai build is helpful in various sectors that include defense, aviation, and construction.
Advantages of 3D Printing in the Robotics Industry
- Saves Time – More prototypes can be produced with the help of 3D printing technology in this Robotics Industry.
- Less Expensive – Produce more prototypes and models with lesser expenditure. Mainly, it avoids the expense used in trial and error.
- Responsible for Unimaginable Prototypes – Highly accurate and detailed scale models are printed by 3D printing technology. It is often used to showcase design ideas and identify design issues.
- Creates an Ergonomic Design – 3D printing technology aims to manufacture a design of a package with human constraints. It allows the application of ergonomic principles to the packaging designs.
- Design that sells – Due to more advancements in 3D printing technology led the companies to have to create effective prototypes, work faster, and test packaging designs. It enables to grab the consumer’s interest and to establish brand identity.
- Mass Customization – It enables and allows mass customization of production in a quicker time.
- Tools Manufacturing – The 3D printing technology in the robotic industry helps in the production of tools and injection molds.
- Sustainability – It avoids material waste and thereby makes the manufacturing process more sustainable.
Why do you need 3D Printing in Robotics Industry?
In Construction Industry
The 3D printing technology in the robotic industry is widely used for the construction sector; some construction firms have been turned into an industrial robotic arm to 3D print a wide range of materials.
An example here says that the French start-up XtreeE has fitted an ABB robotic arm to a concrete extruder to create more composite structures as tall as 14 m. It allows the company to experiment with various shapes and sizes. Some architecture companies with a collaboration of the civil engineering teams, XtreeE had developed the best project portfolio. Some of XtreeE’s projects include 3D facade panels, printed columns, and even pavilions.
Manufacture of robotic arms for 3D Printing
This significant new application of 3D printing technology in the robotic industry is developing diverse kinds of robotic arms with the capability of performing 3D printing.
The Niryo One is a 6-axis 3D printed robot arm which was invented in the year 2016, its main purpose is for education. It has upgraded with more improvements in software and design.
Creation of smart factories using 3D printing Robotics
The 3D printing technology in the robotic industry provides a solution for the growing need manufacturers and to create larger objects on mass with precision. The industrial robots integrated with new 3D printed methods result in simpler and led to the theory of smart manufacturing.
The Future of 3D Printed Robotics
The major area where 3D printed robotics will revolutionize in the future is the medical industry. Robotics will serve as a new advancement in the medical industry with wide-ranging benefits.
The 3D printing method combined with the robotic industry in the medical sector will allow amputees to have robotic limbs connected to their nervous system.
The global 3D Printing Robots Market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% from the year 2021 to 2027.
In the few decades, 3D printing technology in the robotic industry will continue to benefit our lives and will only be further enforced over time.