The addition of robots to a 3D printing system is a logical progression, but the economics depend on how many objects are to be produced, or on how much labor is to be saved per object. While robots are indeed wonderful pieces of automation, thier primary benefit comes from repeating the same task many times. Producing a correct robot program is not a trivial task, it requires time, effort, and expertise. So it is much more likely that the robots would be a great help im mass production of things rather than single units.
There is probably no reason why appropriately sized standard industrial robots would not be able to work with the 3D printer to do everything described in the article. I know that MOTOMAN has been producing a suitable robot for at least ten years. I am sure that other robot makers have also been producing them as well. And linking the robot to the printer should be no harder than linking a robot used to load and unload a forging press.
Indeed, Chuck, but iRobot seems to have gotten there first, at least in announcing heir plans. It fits into their successful consumer robotics strategy, too, as 3D printers are not merely a business product and as they become less expensive, they will find their way into more homes (perhaps beside a Roomba :)).
I agree, Liz. It's the next obvious evolutionary step for 3D printing. And it's not surprising that it comes from iRobot. I'll bet there are a lot of robotics designers who are hitting themselves in the head for not thinking of this first.
Interesting, Ann, but that makes great sense as well--combining 3D printing with assembly (though I was imagining more of a standard automation-type assembly system than the underwater one described in your story). Quite amazing to think of the possibilities of all of this--a completely automated 3D printing and assembly process. Seems not so far off! But what happens to the human workers?
I agree with Elizabeth--this is a logical next step. But so is another way of achieving a similar automated end: combining 3D printing with self-assembly: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=26011
It will be interesting to see if either of these approaches actually materializes and, if so, which one happens first.
Well this of course is the likely evolution of 3D printing, as it seems like robotics and automation are becoming a part of so many human-driven processes these days. So the tables will turn, in a sense; 3D printing has been used to fabricate a robot and soon a robot will do your 3D printing for you. :) http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=258309
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