3D-Printed Robot Merges Additive and Smart Manufacturing

Bastian Solutions worked with Fast Radius to create a shuttle system that uses additive manufacturing to design and construct a custom-designed modular robot system.

 

Bastian Solutions, Fast Radius, HP, HP printers, additive manufacturing, 3D printing

The Bastion Solutions robot shuttle system was created by Fast Radius using HP 3D printers. The shuttle system uses custom-bade modular robots. (Source: HP)

Bastian Solutions – a Toyota Advanced Logistics North American company and material handling systems integrator – has created a robotic materials handling system made with parts produced through additive manufacturing. The process has enabled robot picker customization to fit each customer’s particular warehouse environment.

Bastian Solutions worked with Fast Radius to develop an innovative additive manufacturing process for the shuttle system. HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers housed in Fast Radius’ Chicago facility were used to additively manufacture the parts, delivering improved efficiency and decreased power consumption. Forty-five percent of the final build-of-material for the arm of the shuttle system was produced using additive manufacturing.

The Advantages of Additive Manufacturing

Choosing the right printing material had an impact on the overall success of the shuttle system. “We used nylon materials, three different grades. In industrial manufacturing, things get beat up, so the materials have to be hard. The 3D-printed materials also had to be lighter so we could use smaller motors to move things around faster,” David Woodlock, Market Development Manager at HP, told Design News. “Robot arm tools are often big. If you can print them out using a polymer, you can reduce the cycle time of the arm swing by 20%. So, the choice of material is a matter of action, speed, and cost reduction.”

The design advantages of 3D-printed objects also came into play. “We experienced a performance increase using the 3D-printed parts. A lot of that is because of the design freedom in creating these parts,” said Woodlock. “That also gave us an improved time to market. That’s because there is no tooling. Everything is built as ordered. With these designs, you can scale the parts to changes in the servo. You can scale the digital design up and down. All told, speed-to-market was probably the biggest advantage.”

The Customized Modular Robot

The Fast Radius platform is designed to help companies like Bastian Solutions identify potential applications, conduct engineering and economic evaluations, accelerate new product development, and ultimately manufacture industrial-grade parts at the Fast Radius factory at-scale with the latest additive technologies. “From the start, Bastian Solutions knew they wanted to use additive manufacturing to unlock the full capabilities of this product,” Lou Rassey, CEO of Fast Radius, told Design News. “They needed to make a modular robot with parts that could be easily customized based on customer needs. Additive manufacturing uniquely enables Bastian Solutions to customize and scale parts quickly per the customers’ requirements.”

Light Materials in a Lattice Design

Part of the goal for the shuttle system was to create a design that would consume less energy than traditionally designed systems. “Bastian Solutions wanted the shuttle system to be more energy efficient. To do this, they needed to manufacture lighter parts,” said Rassey. “The design capabilities and materials used in additive manufacturing allowed the Bastian Solutions to lightweight many of the parts on the robot arm. In some instances, we were able to replace metal parts with rigid polyamide materials.”

The unique design possibilities of additive manufacturing also contributed to the shuttle system’s success. “Using lattice design – a technique specifically made possible through design for additive manufacturing – we were able to achieve many of the unique properties that Bastian Solutions was looking for,” said Rassey. “We used lattice design to create durable, elastomeric flexibility for parts like the robot’s gripper fingers and joint bumpers.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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