What Are the Robotic Arm 3D Printing Solutions on the Market?
One of the trends we have increasingly seen as additive manufacturing industrializes is an increased focus on large-format additive manufacturing. Though this can of course be achieved with large machines, notably those using FDM, robotic arms offer a number of advantages for users. Robotic arms allow not just for large-scale printing thanks to the long reach of the arms, but also more freedom thanks their multiple axes as well as the fact that the resulting parts often do not require support structures. Though there are only a handful of manufacturers who create the robotic arms, they have been adapted by 3D printing manufacturers for both polymer and metal AM solutions. In the following list, in no particular order, we take a closer look at what is currently on the market, both for original arms and adapted solutions.
Original Robotic Arms Manufacturers
The German company KUKA is undoubtedly one of the leaders in the automation market, offering robots that enable the electronics, automotive and healthcare industries to simplify their manufacturing processes. KUKA develops solutions that can be adapted for additive manufacturing. It is therefore not surprising to find the KUKA brand on many robotic 3D printers, whether for designing metal, plastic or even concrete parts. One example is the KR QUANTEC line of robotic arms, which offers machines with a reach of 2,671 to 3,904 mm and a load capacity of 120 to 300 kilos.
ABB group is a multinational company which produces robotic arms, including those used for 3D printing. Their robotics portfolio is diverse with different types of industrial robots to fulfil consumer needs.Their RobotStudio® programme is the world’s most popular offline programming and simulation tool for robotic applications. According to the company, with its solution, users can unlock flexibility and upgrade their business productivity to the next level. They are even able to design robots to suit their own unique needs, notably in additive manufacturing. As you will see further down the list, ABB six axis industrial robot is used by Massive Dimension, a company which works on sustainable development in the 3D printing industry.
Comau is an Italian industrial automation and robotics company. The company develops systems, products and services compatible with Industry 4.0. In particular, its portfolio includes a complete family of robots, including robotic arm solutions. Since 1978, Comau has been manufacturing these machines with the aim of integrating and improving innovative applications in all industrial sectors. There are several robotic arms, and they differ in their payload capacities. Still, they leverage IoT and AI technology to operate autonomously.
Third Party 3D Printing Companies Using These Solutions
CEAD is a Dutch company based in Delf that develops large-scale 3D printers. This company stands out as it offers robot-based solutions that combine printing and CNC milling processes in one process. Another solution is the AM Flexbot, a robot-based solution for large-scale 3D printing. Siemens Sinumerik controllers are responsible for controlling the Comau robot arm, thus not requiring any robot controller. This controller can control 31 axes at the same time as it moves along its path. Your AM Flexbot can be expanded with additional functions such as a rotary table, additional robots, or other production processes such as CNC milling. It is the perfect choice for a customized solution with a specific application.
DXR Series from Weber Additive
German company Weber Additive, dedicated to the development of different manufacturing technologies, also has robotic arm solutions for 3D printing. Weber’s DXR robotic system features a high-quality extruder capable of 3D printing. The extruder is powered by a 6-axis industrial robot that allows it to move precisely. Its robotic arm based on the manufacturer Kuka and its AE series extruders are adapted to the needs of its customers to provide the most optimal results. These systems offer great advantages, such as 3D printing with 6-axis kinematics, a variable angle of the manufacturing head or overprinting on existing parts, among others. You can take a look at the solution in the video below:
The robotic arm from Hyperion Robotics
Founded in 2019 in Helsinki, Hyperion Robotics is a company specializing in the construction industry. It uses additive manufacturing to design more affordable structures, wanting to make the market more sustainable and most importantly, more automated. To do this, it relies on KUKA robots on which it mounts an extruder capable of depositing Hyperion Robotics’ material. This is a special concrete mix that uses a reduced amount of cement thanks to recycled waste components. It also designed its own software that allows it to work with any robot. In terms of applications, the Finnish company has already built decorative elements, structures imitating coral reefs and energy infrastructures.
Massive Dimension, as their name undoubtedly suggests, is a manufacturer of large format 3D extruders and full solutions, including turnkey robotic printing cells. Specifically, the company was founded with the goal of contributing to sustainable solutions in order to reduce waste on the planet. Currently, Massive Dimension’s solutions are centered around polymer pellet 3D printing. For their robotic cells, they include six-axis industrial robotic arms from ABB. When combined with the ABB 3D Printing Powerpac software, users have access to a comprehensible workflow for pellet 3D printing. The company notes that their robotic arms have been custom-tailored for robotic printing, including large format printing thanks to a build volume of 3ft x 5ft x 5ft. Moreover, these cells can also be further customized to fit each user’s individual needs.
Orbital Composites aims to disrupt the 3D printing industry. They believe that robotics is the answer to the limitations faced by the industry, such as scale, speed, strength and design. Their Orbital S, the first robotic 3D printer built for industrial scale, was released to tackle these problems. The impressive robot has a maximum speed of 2m/s, has a maximum payload of 10kg and a maximum reach of 1.1m. The build platform is 1m x 1m x 1m, giving the ability to create relatively large end use parts. Furthermore, the user has a choice of materials. It uses the Kuka KR10 R1100 robot arm; Kuka is an official partner of the company.
Dyze Design et Pulsar
Pulsar is a state-of-the-art, large-scale, high-speed plastic pellet extruder. It was designed with one goal in mind: to 3D print large parts as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Pulsar is compatible with robotic arms for 3D printing and is capable of producing up to 500 mm3/s (2.5 kg/h) of material. It can also be used with large nozzles from 1.00 mm to 5.00 mm. Finally, Pulsar is ready for all environmental conditions. The water cooling loop ensures that the entire system is at a constant temperature. With an additional heat shield, Pulsar can withstand a 200°C environment. This makes the machine compatible with plastic materials such as PEEK, Ultem and PSU.
This company combines additive manufacturing, prefabrication and digital technology on a large scale. Thanks to their patented technology, it allows the team of designers and architects to imagine, compose and finally build those structures that were previously impossible with traditional construction methods. One example of a project they have carried out is in the construction of a 3D printed pavilion in which they have used KUKA robotic technology. The combination of robots with 3D printing has enabled the architects and designers from Gould Turnes Group with whom they have collaborated to not only tackle the construction of the final structure but the design process from start to finish. The 3D printing process applied to the KUKA robots is a great combination as it allows the production of precise, lightweight and cost-effective components from a variety of materials.
At this point, if you are interested in WAAM technology, you have almost certainly heard of MX3D. The Dutch company made waves for its creation of an entirely 3D printed, metal bridge which is currently located in the center of Amsterdam. This among other large-scale metal 3D printing feats has made them a popular choice in many sectors. And the company uses robotic arms for its solutions. More specifically, MX3D uses an 8-axis ABB industrial robotics system in its M1 metal AM system, allowing for the creation of medium to large-scale metal parts. To ease the process, the company also offers MetalXL, a software that controls their WAAM-based systems, ensuring that the part is manufactured as intended, controlling everything from design through monitoring during the actual printing.
Continuous Composites was recently selected by NASA to produce low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) open isogrid composite structures for space applications, using its patented Continuous Fiber 3D Printing (CF3D) technology. This printer combines high performing composite materials with rapid curing thermoset resins. They say that this will demonstrate the printer’s capability to produce high quality and consistent printing, with excellent accuracy and precision. The printer is configurable and scalable and therefore can be applied to projects of various dimensions. They turned to Comau for their robotic arm needs.
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