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Robotics 3D Printing: How 3D Printing Benefits Robotics in 2021

robotics 3d printing

3D printing is booming in the robotics industry. Not only does 3D printing make it possible to get more complex structures in additive manufacturing. It can also result in lower costs, higher versatility, and additional flexibility when it comes to creating customized tasks.

Let’s dive into what engineers and robotic parts manufacturers need to know about the benefits of 3D printing in the robotics world.


The Benefits of Using 3D Printing Technology in Robotics


Larger Robotics Parts

In the robotics industry, industrial robots are typically programmed machines. These can perform tasks with very high repeatability and excellent freedom of motion in multiple directions.

3D printing is known for being able to produce parts with very complex components.

It’s also known for impressive speed and low costs. By combining these two technologies, companies will be able to create massive objects.


Improved Freeform Manufacturing

If a 3D printer is outfitted with a robotic arm with high movability, it can then move in a variety of directions and print at more angles. This expands the freedom of building geometrically-complex shapes to a completely new horizon.

Just as well, such technology doesn’t require support structures.

Meaning that whatever the robotic 3D printer produces will need to be self-supported. This can be fixed by reorienting the platform itself to deal with overhangs.


Less Waste and Lower Costs

In the robotics industry, there is definitely a problem with material waste. By combining robotics and 3D printing, it becomes easier to manage materials and reduce material waste.

3D printing makes this possible because it only deposits material where it needs to go. Combining these two technologies could make robotics manufacturing so much more sustainable.

Not only is this excellent in terms of sustainability, but it’s also a major way to cut costs. By only using the number of materials needed, manufacturers can save quite a bit on materials that end up being wasted by traditional robotic machines.


Faster Prototyping

It’s vital for manufacturers of parts, especially medical parts, to be able to prototype quickly. 

When it comes to robotics design, additive manufacturing is a great way to experiment and change different design parameters without too much waste and expensive costs. A 3D-printed prototype can be made in a sliver of time that it takes for a traditional machine to make that same part. 

3D-printed Soft Four Legged Robot
3D-printed Soft Four Legged Robot (source: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering / David Baillot)

3D printing is essentially minimizing this production time. It also couples it with the relative ease of low-volume production found in fast prototyping. The result is incredible flexibility when it comes to building both parts and whole machines.


The Possibility of Direct Fabrication

3D printing can be used to create tools and fixtures as well as prototyping. However, it can also possibly be used to actually fabricate the actual robot itself. Or, at the very least, most of the components that make the machine. 

More and more robotics parts are being 3D printed. The reason is, there is a ton of diversity in 3D-printing materials that facilitate better innovation and durability. While 3D printing can be seen as a replacement for traditional injection molding, it’s also so much more.

3D printing could change the way we build products in general. It’s easy to get extremely creative with 3D printers. One could make whole, geometrically-complex parts and intricate wiring on after the other.

The potential there is really incredible and could allow the robotics industry to move much faster and with better control.

Some Use Cases of Robotics and 3D Printing

There are many use cases for the merge of these two technologies.

To start, the construction industry could stand to benefit the most from robotic 3D printing. In fact, many firms in the industry have already installed industrial robotic arms in their existing systems to 3D print different types of materials.

Just as well, robotic additive manufacturing with metallic materials is another possibility. Dutch robotics company MX3D has already created an excellent version of a “hybrid” 3D printer that combines industrial robotics with welding machines to create large-scale constructions.

M1 System Industrial 3D Printing Robotics
M1 System Industrial 3D Printing Robotics (source: MX3D)

There are also AI companies that are advancing the application of robotic 3D printing. London company AI Build has developed numerous ways to combine artificial intelligence and computer vision with 3D printing for a large scale. AiMaker is the result. This 3D printing tool head is robotic and powered by AI. 

AI-powered Large Scale 3D-Printing Robot
AI-powered Large Scale 3D-Printing Robot (Source: Ai Build)

It can be attached to virtually any robotic arm and allow manufacturers to engage in additive manufacturing of large-scale plastic pieces. The algorithms built into this device, combined with sensors and cameras, can detect when an error occurs in the printing process immediately.


How was our guide to 3D printing and the robotics industry? There really are some excellent opportunities for these two technologies to work together. We want to hear what you think in the comments below.

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