3D print end-effector components
From painting to pick-and-place operations, robotic arms perform a variety of tasks with excellent endurance, speed and precision. Compared with machining end-of-arm components from metal, 3D printing saves time and expense while producing lighter-weight parts that perform better and cause less wear and tear.
Overview of the application
Robots are used to perform tasks such as sorting, transporting, palletizing, inspecting and machining. A robot’s end of arm tool (EOAT), also called an end-effector, is selected based on the operation it will perform, such as gripping or welding, and is specific to the part or tool that the robot manipulates. Although there are standard, off-the-shelf EOATs, robot integrators and end-users often need customized solutions to engage uniquely shaped objects, optimize operations and improve productivity. Because of the low-volume nature of custom EOATs, many are machined from metal. They are combined with stock components such as vacuum cups, actuators, framing components and quick changers. However, the time, cost and effort to machine custom EOATs can be prohibitive, which is why end-users may settle for non-customized, stock solutions.
Value of using FDM
FDM technology provides an alternative method for producing EOATs that can provide dramatic time and cost savings while optimizing performance. FDM is an additive manufacturing (3D printing) process that builds plastic parts layer by layer using data from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) files. With FDM, EOATs can be customized and tailored to a specific application while often accelerating implementation on the production floor.
FDM technology and materials make EOATs that result in many performance advantages for robots. FDM EOATs are lighter than those made with metal, which means that robots can move faster or carry larger payloads. Weight reduction also improves motor efficiency and reduces component wear, extending the time between preventive maintenance (PM) cycles. FDM technology easily makes hollow internal structures and the thermoplastic materials are lightweight, yet durable. When combined, weight reductions of ninety percent or more are possible. Plastics have two additional advantages: they won’t scratch the products they grip, and they dampen impact forces so that a tool crash is less likely to damage the robot. An FDM EOAT can also have components like magnets and sensors embedded during the FDM build process. Fully encased, the components are protected and won’t mar the parts that come in contact with the EOAT.
FDM EOATs can be as simple or complex as needed, which gives designers the freedom to create tooling solely for its specific function. For example, EOATs can have integrated vacuum channels, assemblies consolidated to a single part, or organic shapes that conform to the object being manipulated by the robot. This design flexibility provides a unique opportunity to optimize robot performance and with FDM technology, design complexity doesn’t increase cost.
FDM EOAT manufacturing is responsive, efficient and straightforward, turning EOAT design projects into simple tasks. If a design needs to change, FDM can produce a new tool in as little as one day. New or revised designs and replacement EOATs are delivered and mounted on the robot quickly, regardless of complexity. During robot testing and validation, a quick response avoids delays in starting up a production line. Once FDM EOATs are operating in production, rapid revisions keep the line running at peak performance.
Benefits of FDM:
|Average lead time savings:||70% – 85%|
|Average cost savings:||75% – 85%|
|Greater design freedom:||Internal vacuum channels
|Greater performance:||Lightweight/low mass
Extended preventative maintenance cycles
|Rapid response:||In-house fabrication
Redesign as needed
*Typical time and cost savings derived from numerous end-user analysis, testimonials and feedback. Actual savings may vary based upon numerous factors, including traditional time/cost, part geometry and utilized technology.
FDM is a best fit:
|Size:||25 mm (1 in) to 400 mm (16 in)|
|Quantity:||1 to 100s|
|Materials:||Thermoplastics are acceptable|
|Tolerance:||≥ ± 0.13 mm (0.005 in)|
|Revisions:||Frequent changes or replacements|
Tools Without Tooling
3D printed tools, molds and tool masters add a new layer of cost efficiency and flexibility to the factory floor. Not only can you cost-effectively produce tools for prototype testing and manufacturing low volumes of final parts, you can create made-to-order assembly tools customized for each task. In addition, you can create a leaner manufacturing environment, enabling quick production of tools, when and where they’re needed to speed the manufacturing process and reduce costs.
Optimized assembly tools, made to order
Improve manufacturing efficiency with job-specific jigs and assembly fixtures, 3D printed on demand in just hours. 3D printing tools directly from CAD data, on-demand, saves time, lowers costs and reduces inventory requirements. In addition, you can easily create customized lightweight, ergonomic tools that increase workflow efficiency.
3D printed Injection molds
Imagine producing injection molds without costly CNC tools. With Stratasys thermoplastics and photopolymers, you can quickly 3D print injection molds to evaluate prototype parts or produce low volumes of end use parts. This is especially useful to test the design, fit and function of products before mass production. If changes are required, new mold iterations can be 3D printed in just a few hours at minimal cost.
3D print customized, low volume durable parts with fine details and smooth surface finishes
Stratasys additive manufacturing enables you to 3D print strong, functional final parts on demand directly from CAD data. Because the part is created digitally layer by layer, complex geometries and sophisticated features that would be difficult to produce using traditional manufacturing methods are now easily achieved with Stratasys additive manufacturing. Producing end use parts with Stratasys technology not only dramatically reduces your production costs and delivery times, it also reduces inventory while creating exciting new supply chain efficiencies and new business models.