“With 3D printing, Complexity is free. The printer doesn’t care if it makes the most rudimentary shape or the most complex shape, and that is completely turning designing and manufacturing on its head as we know it.”
— Avi Reichental (CEO of 3D systems)
What is 3D printing?
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, turns digital files into 3D physical objects by adding material in a layer-by-layer process. Each layer can be seen as a very thin sliced cross-section of the object. Unlike the subtractive manufacturing method where a piece of plastic or metal is cut out, 3D printing gives everyday consumers the power of manufacturing.
Now, let’s dig deep into the benefits of using 3D printing in Robotics:
On a broader level, 3D printing aids prototyping, tooling, fabrication, and lowers cost and time to market. It is of great use for robotic engineers to achieve their goals. It accelerates product design, and reduces cost and waste. In doing so, it increases the flexibility to create more complex designs. This technology enables us to mass-produce customized products for customers.
The time frame for designing, manufacturing, and testing parts used to take months. 3D printing reduced that to a few days. It enables the user to design any kind of complex part without the need of a warehouse and expensive machinery. This modern production method easily reduces long lead times for the outsourcing of complex manufacturing projects, as well as the constraints of the minimum order for customized parts and products. As per the EY, 39% of companies in the manufacturing and Robotics industry now prefer 3D printed tools to enhance their products.
Unlike traditional methods of CNC and injection molding, 3D printing reduces trial and error in designing, the cost of expensive machinery, and labor. Also, creating a product from the ground up, instead of carving it out from the block of material, reduces waste.
Using the same 3D printer, designs can be produced irrespective of the part dimension or complexity. This allows the designing and manufacturing geometries impossible for the traditional methods such as parts within parts as a single structure and hollow cavity inside a solid joint free part. (No other way to say this?) It allows anyone with very little know-how of CAD to work and edit designs as per their needs. They can also work with multiple materials in the same object, giving them the chance to mix the mechanical properties and textures.
Tangible Product Quality check:
The life cycle of product manufacturing is reduced, thanks to the low cost and high-speed production rate of additive manufacturing. A physical prototype can be tested for flaws, corrected, and printed immediately the next day allowing for quick product improvements. This helps in getting accurate feedback from potential investors and consumers. This step-by-step production guarantees faster enhancement in the production design and better quality parts or products.
With 3D printing, parts are manufactured in succession. Each part can be monitored and real-time faults can be checked. The result is less waste and failed parts during production. Increasing the consistency of best quality parts by testing product prototypes beforehand reduces the risk of potentially disastrous investments.
Accessibility and Sustainability:
3D printing is almost entirely automated. It requires little or no additional staff to operate, supervise, and manage the process, rendering it far more accessible than other manufacturing processes. As a result, contrary to the conventional production setup, its setup is quite cost-efficient.
In Conclusion, by developing better tooling, leveraging design freedoms, customizing robots, accelerating time to market, and being user-friendly, additive manufacturing enables the robotics industry to, like others, take advantage of producing volumes with fewer upfront costs and more efficiency gains. This, along with the multitude of applications 3D printing can provide to the robotics industry, makes for a very innovative future.