Additive Manufacturing in Robotic Cells and Conveyor Systems

June 1, 2023

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, can play a significant role in automation by providing unique advantages in the production of components for robotic cells/systems and conveyor systems. Here’s an explanation of how 3D printing can be utilized in these areas:

  1. Components for Robotic Cells/Systems: Robotic cells/systems often require specialized components tailored to specific tasks and environments. 3D printing enables the creation of complex geometries and custom designs that traditional manufacturing methods may find challenging or costly to produce. Here’s how 3D printing can be used in this context:

a. Prototyping: During the development of robotic cells/systems, 3D printing can quickly produce prototypes of various components. This allows engineers to test and validate the design before committing to mass production, thereby reducing development time and costs.

b. Custom End Effectors and Grippers: End effectors and grippers are critical components in robotic systems, responsible for interacting with objects. 3D printing enables the creation of custom end effectors tailored to specific tasks, allowing robots to handle a wide range of objects efficiently.

c. Lightweight Structures: 3D printing allows the creation of complex lightweight structures with internal lattice or honeycomb patterns. This capability is beneficial for robotic components, as it reduces weight and enables faster movements while maintaining structural integrity.

d. Integration and Consolidation: 3D printing allows the integration and consolidation of multiple components into a single part. This approach simplifies assembly, reduces the number of required parts, and eliminates the need for additional fasteners, ultimately improving the overall efficiency and reliability of the robotic system.

  1. Components for Conveyor Systems: Conveyor systems are widely used in automation for material handling and transportation. 3D printing can enhance these systems by providing the following benefits:

a. Customization and Adaptability: Conveyor systems often require unique components to accommodate specific requirements such as shape, size, and material handling characteristics. With 3D printing, custom conveyor belt guides, brackets, connectors, or even entire conveyor modules can be produced quickly and cost-effectively, allowing for easy customization and adaptability.

b. Tooling and Fixtures: 3D printing is ideal for producing jigs, fixtures, and tooling used in conveyor systems. These custom-made tools assist in alignment, positioning, and inspection processes, improving overall accuracy and efficiency.

c. Wearable and Replacement Parts: Conveyor systems experience wear and tear, particularly on components such as rollers, guides, and bearings. 3D printing offers the ability to produce replacement parts on-demand, reducing downtime and eliminating the need for large inventories of spare parts.

d. Optimization of Part Design: 3D printing enables the production of complex geometries that may not be feasible with traditional manufacturing methods. This freedom of design allows engineers to optimize component structures, reducing weight, increasing strength, and improving functionality, ultimately enhancing the performance of conveyor systems.

Overall, by leveraging the benefits of 3D printing, automation systems can be enhanced with components that are more efficient, adaptable, and cost-effective, leading to increased productivity and improved performance in robotic cells/systems and conveyor systems.