Over the years I've been keeping an informal list of large rapid prototyping systems. I'd like to take a moment to share some of these, including: big 3-axis systems that print plastic, sand, or cement; large robot arms with extruders and milling bits; and large industrial arms for bending metal and assembling modular structures. This list is woefully incomplete, but it provides some fun eye candy. Enjoy!
There are numerous examples of scaled-up 3-axis systems -- with workspaces ranging from a cubic meter to a few cubic meters: Grass Roots Engineering, D-Shape fusing sand (video), Le BigRep, modified ShopBots, etc.
Gantry CNC systems aren't exactly new. They've been around for a LONG time, and are starting to show up in home shops and hackerspaces across the country (ie. ShopBots with their 3.7m x 1.5m workspace). However, this giant 5-axis CNC from EEW ProTec is in an entirely other class! It has a workspace up to 151m x 9m x 4.25m -- more than 5700 m3:
Behrokh Khoshnevis (prof at USC) gave a talk at TEDxOjai about his work on using rapid prototyping techniques for home construction -- a technique dubbed "Contour Crafting." This work, funded by Caterpillar, has also appeared in the NYT and PopSci.
I'm not exactly a construction expert, so it's difficult for me to say how realistic or effective this solution could be -- having lived in the midwest, I've witnessed construction workers using concrete forms to pour foundations in just a day or two. I think the real potential of this solution will only be realized when dealing with multi-story homes and autonomously integrating electrical and plumbing. That's when this technology will become really impressive. In any case, the pair of articles making absurd claims about it taking 220 years to 3D print a home are misguided.
“As Official Treat Provider to London 2012 Cadbury has launched “Cadbury House” and a large “Treat Station” at the BT London Live Site in Hyde Park throughout the Olympics.
On the first day of the Games they launched a unique robot carver, able to transform a slab of Dairy Milk into any 3D creation over the course of the day. In true Olympic style they kicked off by recreating Wenlock, the official Olympic mascot. vai CadburyUK “
Robotic Solutions has a great lineup of industrial milling arms -- along with plasma cutters, welders, quick-change end effectors, and tracked systems to increase the robots' workspace. I don't want to cover each of these independently, so let's just look at one fun example:
I've seen a lot of press about 3D printing "booths": a depth camera scans your body and then prints a 3D figurine. It would be so much cooler to get a life-sized milled bust. Someone should totally setup booths to do this at the state fair. I'd buy one!
Here is Dirk Vander Kooij's "Endless" project, where he 3D prints chairs using materials from recycled refrigerators. Incidentally, it seems you can actually buy his creations. Here are some pictures and a video of the process:
One of the cool things about this sort of design is that there is no filament. The material is directly dropped into a hopper and then passed through the (massive!) heated extruder head.
Another SDM robot arm using clay instead of abs plastic:
FabClay is a 3D ceramic printing project launched by barcelona-based Sasha Jokic (Serbia), Starsk Lara (Colombia) and Nasim Fashami (Iran) aiming to explore a new digital fabrication system. It is a robotic additive manufacturing processes using industrial a Kuka robot and new 3D printing technology.
An ancient, monstrous SCARA robot arm, open sourced servo-motor drives, and an ABS extrusion print-head with Linux-CNC gluing everything together.
This project documents the re-purposing of a 'rescued' 1980's IBM 7575 SCARA Robot Arm, into a functional 3D ABS printer. The project features some motor upgrades, documentation of encoder positioned motor control feedback theory, the interminglings of EMC2 [Linux CNC], heated workspace construction and a step by step overview of transitioning from 3D stl model to 3D g-coded structure. The huge reach of the 7575, allows for printing large objects, (roughly ~25"x12"x6.5" maximum). Some of these prints are shown below.
One of the key innovations of anti-gravity object modelling is the use of thermosetting polymers instead of thermoplastics that are used in existing 3D printers. The material is cured because of a chemical reaction between two source components with such proportion of extrusion and movement speeds that it comes solid out of the nozzle; this feature makes it possible to print hanging curves without support material.
"The idea of industrialising folding metal started about 16 years ago," he says, "but it wasn't until 2008 that I turned it into a business." His patented process uses six machines normally found in car manufacturing plants. They gently bend sheets of aluminium into shapes hard to achieve through conventional methods, to create decorative facades for interiors. The south London-based company uses computer-aided design to develop a 3D model. The bots look after the rest.
The sculpture is designed by Prague-based artist Federico Díaz, and when it's done, it'll have 420,000 black balls suspended in what appears to be an invisible box, 50-feet-by-20-feet, set down in the heart of the museum's entry courtyard. From the renderings, the whole thing looks like frozen oil splashing out of a giant vat. That, or CGI from some yet-to-be-made sci-fi-horror-surfer film called Geometric Death Frequency 141 which, incidentally, is the name Díaz gave the piece.
For the longest time, I thought this was just a concept (left image, rendered), but the photos from Massachusetts MoCA where the piece was exhibited (right two images, real) clearly show the completed sculpture. Mad cool!
The sculpture was created using little black "ping pong"-like balls and superglue using industrial robot arms:
Here's another example, namely robot bricklaying:
Architects fitted a manipulator robot in a modified freight container -- a "mobile fabrication unit" that could travel anywhere in the world. They took it to Manhattan a few years ago, where the robot built a 22-meter-long (72 feet) brick structure
I'm well aware that this list is woefully incomplete -- this is just a small sampling of projects that I thought were interesting. If you know of any others, be sure to let us know in the comments.