This is exciting stuff! You know how 3D printers are normally restricted to Cartesian movement, shackled to the boxy parameters of boxy frames? Though this isn’t the first example of mounting 3D printer heads onto robot arms, it may represent the direction in which 3D printers are headed. At the TU Delft Robotics Institute in the Netherlands, researchers have created the prototype for a 3D printer that uses a robotic arm and laser scanner to open up the possibility for 3D printing at almost any angle and onto the surfaces of objects.
The researchers at TU Delft performed a variety of experiments to test the functionality of their robotic 3D printer arm from, Netherlands-based manufacturing company, Océ. Due to the range of motion allowed by the arm, the team was first able to print a large 2D print that was two times faster than a standard, linear print. In a second test, the arm’s attached laser scanner made it so that they could perform a 2D print onto a curved surface. Finally, the researchers analyzed the possibilities for 3D printing with such a robotic arm, though they still need to modify the device to actually carry out the 3D printing process. Combined, these capabilities would make it so that 3D printing could be used to repair non-flat objects and print 3D structures onto complex substrates.
Don’t get mad, but the video below demonstrates the robotic arm’s ability to print on a curved surface in twodimensions. It’s not hard to imagine the next iteration of this prototype though!