Renishaw, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, UK, is collaborating with start-up Additive Automations, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK, as part of a project to automate the post-processing of metal additively manufactured parts by using collaborative robots (cobots) to perform support structure removal.
Additive Automations creates robotic systems specifically designed to automate Additive Manufacturing. After obtaining funding from UK and Canadian bodies, its founder and CEO, Robert Bush, collaborated with both Renishaw and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
Renishaw provided four examples of its AM builds to enable the start-up to demonstrate its support structure removal system. The four AM parts were designed for medical, oil and gas, automotive and mechanical engineering applications.
Testing its robotic system on parts already being used in industrial applications will help Additive Automations demonstrate the potential of its product.
According to Renishaw, the project, Separation of Additive-Layer Supports by Automation (SALSA), could reduce the average cost per part by 25%, furthering AM’s potential as a cost-effective option for large-volume production lines.
SALSA aims to use robotics and deep learning to digitalise some of the few remaining manual processes left in AM. Cobots were chosen for their high payload-to-size ratio and integrated force sensors, which collect data to determine the geometry of AM parts.
Software then analyses the data, using digital twin technology. The output is then used to determine where the support structures are so that they can be removed using an end-effector tool.
“Automating support removal and finishing in AM completely changes the economics when scaling up AM, and for the first time makes it feasible for manufacturers around the world to adopt this technology in rapid production,” explained Bush.
“Improvements in post-processing could bring AM to the forefront of new applications in medical and aerospace applications,” added Bryan Austin, Director of AM Sales at Renishaw. “An automated manufacturing process could make AM adoption more appealing to manufacturers operating large volume production lines.”