Apr 21, 2016 | By Benedict

A team of researchers from the Princeton campus of Siemens Corporate Technology has created a cluster of spider-like 3D printing robots. The spider-bots, dubbed SiSpis, have been designed to work autonomously and collaboratively, and can even recharge themselves.

Any 3D printing business worth its salt knows that “with great 3D printing power comes great responsibility.” It is for this reason, perhaps, that Siemens Corporate Technology has allocated a chunk of time and resources to the creation of a cluster of 3D printing spider-bots—machines which can work in teams to achieve large and complex tasks.

While the additive manufacturing industry as a whole has not exactly been crying out for such a product, researchers say these robo-arachnids, build almost entirely in-house, could potentially revolutionize manufacturing in the automotive, aerospace, and shipbuilding industries. “We are looking at using multiple autonomous robots for collaborative additive manufacturing of structures, such as car bodies, the hulls of ships and airplane fuselages,” project leader Livio Dalloro told The Engineer.

So what exactly are these “SiSpis” that could soon be 3D printing bits of our cars, planes, and boats? According to the company, each robot is powered by Siemens’ NX PLM software and comes equipped with a 3D printing extruder, designed to print polylactic acid, a biodegradable thermoplastic which can be derived from corn starch, sugarcane, and other natural sources. However, unlike your average 3D printer, SiSpis are fully mobile, as they sport a multitude of articulated legs. Furthermore, each bot has an onboard camera and laser scanner for interpreting its surrounding environment. These sensory capabilities enable SiSpis to know exactly where they are in relation to the 3D printing task at hand.

These 3D printing robots have been designed to work either individually or as part of a group, with the latter option proving particularly useful for large 3D printing projects which would otherwise require a much longer time period. To enable this robotic 3D printing collaboration, the group Siemens researchers used a series of algorithms that allow for multi-robot task planning. For a given task, the 3D printing area can be divided up into vertical boxes, with each robot assigned its own series of boxes. This division of robotic labor enables the machines to cover even the most complex geometries.

One of the most useful features of the 3D printing SiSpis is their ability to autonomously return to a charging station when their batteries start to run low, a task they are able to perform thanks to their onboard positioning technology. Additionally, when this process occurs, the recharging robot is able “tag out” for a fully charged replacement, so that there is virtually no break in the 3D printing process.

There is currently no indication as to when and where Siemens might deploy these 3D printing robots, should the German corporation choose to do so. Earlier this year, the company invested €20.4 million ($23 million) in Sweden’s first metal 3D printing facility, whilst continuing its relationship with Airbus to develop 3D printing technology in the aerospace industry.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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