MX3D, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, successfully produced an optimised industrial robot arm as part of a collaborative project in November 2019. Designed by engineers from Altair, for a robot supplied by the automation company ABB Group, MX3D reports that the robot arm is an entry in this year’s 3D Pioneers Challenge 2020 competition.
The project highlights an application of large-scale metal Additive Manufacturing for heavy equipment parts, with the aim of customising and optimising the robot arm for various operational requirements and conditions. It is said to show the potential of generative design customisation and a digital twin design approach, to increase productivity for tailored robotic applications.
The stainless steel robot arm is fully additively manufactured via MX3D’s Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process and is over 50% lighter than the original part. The technology is said to feature advanced geometry processing which allows complex organic geometries to be printed upright, explains the company.
Intelligent algorithms also determine the optimal AM strategy and toolpath direction for each geometry feature, ensuring the part is built up efficiently. While the original part was 150 kg, the generative robot arm weighs only 73 kg.
With 24/7 production, the build can reportedly be performed in four days and the part is finished by a standard 3-axis milling machine to achieve the right tolerances at the connecting points. MX3D explains that after the successful build, the joint partners now intend to re-assemble the complete robot.
The goal of the collaborative project was to enable the manufacturing of customised replacement parts, thus allowing for rapid and automated production of large-scale parts that normally require extensive tooling and overseas production, causing long lead times and limited customisation options.