Feb 9, 2018 | By Benedict

German robotics and automation company KUKA is using MakerBot 3D printers to make customized end-use “hands” and other parts for its six-axis robotic arm systems. KUKA says 3D printing is helping the company achieve its smart factory targets.

The MakerBot Replicator Z18 has been around for about four years now, but that doesn’t mean that some of the biggest names in manufacturing aren’t still making use of the popular FDM 3D printer.

One of those names is KUKA, the Chinese-owned German maker of automation systems and factory robots, which is using Z18s around the clock to make prototypes and end-use parts for its robotic arms.

In a new video, staff at KUKA explain how they use 3D printing at their Development and Technology Center in Augsburg. One application is making plastic prototypes for parts that will eventually be machined from metal, while the FDM printers have also been used to make more lightweight parts for KUKA’s Automated ItemPIQ system.

“As soon as we give models and data to our suppliers that make metal components, we start 3D printing robot parts,” explains Sören Papsdorf, Head of Manufacturing Engineering at KUKA. “Because we can do that development stage with one-to-one scale printed components.”

Papsdorf says one of KUKA’s MakerBot 3D printers is working almost 24 hours a day, with prints taking place overnight to be assembled the following workday. Some of these parts are printed on a large scale.

Overall, the German robotics company says additive manufacturing has made a big difference in how it operates, and will only be used more and more in the future as it creates fully automated smart factory equipment.

“I think without 3D printing we would not be as successful as we are at the moment,” says Otmar Honsberg, Head of Application Engineering at KUKA.

See the MakerBots in action in the video below.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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