We’ve heard a lot about 3D printed robots, but what about robots that can 3D print? Not all 3D printers come in a microwave-sized box; some are attached to robotic arms that can provide more creative ranges of motion and larger print areas. They can also print custom materials with some very strange applications. Here are four robotic arms that print out of the box.
Have you ever taken wet sand and dribbled it through your fingers to create lumpy, Dr. Seuss-esque towers? Stone Spray works a bit like that. Sand fed into the 3D printer is combined with a binding agent and sprayed out layer-by-layer. The robotic arm can spray it from any angle, including vertically. The resulting honeycombed structures tower unnaturally high for sand, raising the possibility for some interesting sand castles.
Suspended Depositions uses a needle for a printing nozzle. Instead of printing on a flat surface, it digs into a pool of gel and deposits resin that hardens slower than most 3D printed materials. The gel supports the resin so it can be printed in gravity-defying shapes without the plastic support structures normal 3D printers require. In the future, it may also be able to remove bits of still-soft resin as an “undo” option. Creators can modify the object they are printing at any time and print from all angles.
Structures printed by the Mataerial robot appear to defy gravity. Thick strings of plastic can be printed straight up from the floor or a wall, creating free-standing curved or straight shapes. The robotic arm can print in a variety of colors, and while its creations look like art, its creators are marketing it to manufacturers.
Modified industrial robot
Artist Dirk Vender Kooij’s modified automotive assembly line robot is big. So big that it can print large pieces of furniture. It also creates molten plastic for printing from recycled materials, such as refrigerators broken down into tiny chips of plastic. His “Endless Chair” is made from a single fat string of plastic more than 1,300 feet long.