This project looks to eliminate the line between “designing” and “fabricating.”
As creepy and crawly as spiders may be, their inherent ability as Makers have inspired a new generation of additive manufacturing. Based on the micro-formation of webs, a team of designers in Shanghai has devised a spatial 3D printer based on a 6-axis robotic arm.
“It is more like the revival of craftsmanship in digital age. Factories only require technology showing capabilities in making things; but designers must arm themselves with technology that perform smart strategies outside the scope of replacing human labor,” the team reveals.
The project — aptly dubbed Robotic 6-Axis 3D Printing — is a highly-integrated installation that combines modern-day robotics, additive manufacturing and an interactive interface. While the KUKA-based system uses the same material (ABS) as traditional printers, the extrusion process itself resembles that of silk threading often seen by arthropods. According to its creators, this enables printing in a more simple, self-supporting form. Based on a standardized 3D printing module, the tandem of a built-in sensor and heater ensure that the temperature remains within appropriate range, while tubes send compressed air to the front of printing head to cool the end result. Subsequently, the system is capable of printing a biomimetic object.
“By studying the material and structure performance of 3D form in nature, we figured out a way to incorporate biomimetic fabrication strategy into 3D printing process. And by designing the special robotic-end effector and utilizing the great flexibility and accuracy of KUKA robot system, the biomimetic fabricating process has been fully realized,” the team writes.
At its core lies a petaloid turn-plate equipped a fixed printing head in the center tasked with extruding linearly, while three movable print heads attached beside on another create separate and sinusoidal wave shaped materials to reinforce the object’s structure. The rotation of the turn-plate leads to the oscillating motion of the three movable printing heads, which in turn produces the spindle-knot-like motion trail.
Similar to other devices on the market today, the robotics are based on an Arduino Mega 2560 (ATmega2560) while the machine is driven by four individual servo motors. One motor is responsible for handling the rotating motion of the central turn-plate, while the speed of material delivery and rotation can be changed via a switch on the center stack.
Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here, and watch it extrude in spider-like fashion below.