Metal 3D printing company MX3D printed an optimized industrial robot arm, designed by engineers at Altair for a robot supplied by ABB. This project is an application of large-scale 3D metal printing for heavy equipment parts to customize and optimize the robot arm for operational requirements. It shows the potential of using Generative Design Customization and a Digital Twin Design approach to increase productivity for tailored robotic applications. The stainless-steel robot arm is 3D printed via Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) at >50% reduced weight compared to the original part.
The robot arm was re-designed by Altair engineers using Generative Design Customization to generate the most efficient shape and operational performance. Next to increased productivity, the robot arm was optimized for handling improvements (lower kinetic energy), higher precision and build rates via the Digital Twin Design process. This process included performance requirement identification via kinematic motion simulation of assemblies. Generative design was applied to create new designs with geometric efficiencies derived from the topology concept which was then compared and validated on the grounds of performance and manufacturing feasibility.
The robot arm is fully 3D printed in stainless steel. The WAAM technology has advanced geometry processing which allows complex organic geometries to be printed upright. Intelligent algorithms determine the optimal printing strategy and toolpath direction for each geometry feature, ensuring the part is built efficiently. While the original part was 150 kg, the generative robot arm weighs only 73 kg, resulting in >50% material weight reduction. With 24/7 production, the print can be performed in 4 days. The part is finished by a standard 3-axis milling machine to achieve the right tolerances at the connecting points. After the successful print, the joint partners now intend to re-assemble the complete robot.
The goal of the joint project was to enable the manufacturing of custom replacement parts. This allows rapid and automated production of large-scale parts that normally require extensive tooling and overseas production, causing long lead times and limited customization options. Equipment manufacturers and sellers can now manufacture spare parts in-house.
MX3D recently released MetalXL, a basic version of its software allowing users to quickly start 3D printing large-scale metal objects in their own facilities. MetalXL Beta\01 is currently being tested by selected users with an advanced beta version being made available to additional customers in Q1 2020.