When you combine the freedom of motion of a robot with a 3D printing extrusion nozzle, you can build amazing objects. One of the key benefits is that big, really big, items are easy to build this way. Over the years, researchers have combined robots and 3D printing extrusion nozzles to build houses, bridges, furniture, even automobiles. Remember the BAAM machine at the last IMTS show that used a carbon filled material to print the body of a car?
This year’s IMTS show will host another robot 3D printing system, but one with fine control. Stratasys Ltd. recently introduced its Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator, one of two of its latest innovations in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). These new systems take FDM to a different level of functionality.
Most 3D printers/Additive Manufacturing systems were not built specifically for manufacturing production. But users see the possibility and desire it. Thus, a common wish among users is that 3D printers get faster, build bigger objects, and do so accurately and repeatedly, to better meet automation production needs. The Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator is designed to meet these desires.
The robot offers eight axes of motion rather than the three axes of more traditional 3D printers. The build material is carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Nylon was the plastic used in the demonstration. Carbon gives strength to thermoplastic materials, and the use of the additional degrees of movement freedom from robot application means you can align the fibers and material in a way that distributes the strength through the part. These strong materials are suitable for many automotive and aerospace applications.
Speed is improved by eliminating support structures for most designs. The finish is very good. Depending on your needs, parts could be usable with little post processing.
Stratasys is partnering with Siemens for this Robotic Demonstrator. Siemens is supplying its NX software on its Sinumerik CNC to control the motions of the robot and build table. Potentially, this system could handle 11 degrees of freedom of motion.
One of the interesting aspects to this design is that parts are built outside of the usual enclosed build space. The software controls the speed sufficiently to enable thermal control so that layers adhere to previous layers properly. Stratasys and Siemens engineers studied the thermal needs, plotting thermal changes for various sized parts to enable this type of open-air build.
You can see this machine at the Additive pavilion at the IMTS show beginning Sept 13, 2016.