At Automate 2022, ABB exhibited a 3D printing system featuring its IRB 4400 robotic arm outfitted with a Massive Dimension MDPE10 particle extruder. The system is programmed using ABB’s RobotStudio 3D Printing PowerPac.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), has been gaining traction in industry for some time now, particularly as it has moved beyond prototyping and into actual production applications.
For instance, many manufacturers have begun using AM to rapidly 3D print spare and replacement parts for onsite equipment to speed repairs, cut costs, reduce unplanned downtime, and save valuable warehouse space by avoiding the need to stock parts in advance. In the automotive and aerospace industries, its chief benefit has been in producing innovative and lightweight components that cannot be achieved via traditional manufacturing techniques—a development that has been a boon as vehicle manufacturers strive to increase fuel economy without compromising the safety or structural integrity of their automobiles and aircrafts.
Moreover, not unlike having a backup server or installing redundancy in critical systems, the on-demand nature of 3D printing can help end users navigate increasingly common supply chain disruptions.
ABB’s demonstration featured several key components:
- The IRB 4400 is a high-speed robotic arm with a load capacity of 60 kg. It also features extensive communication abilities, including serial links and network interfaces, as well as programmable logic controller, remote I/O, and fieldbus interfaces.
- The MDPE10 particle extruder is a direct print extruder capable of outputting 10 lbs per hour.
- RobotStudio 3D Printing PowerPac is an ABB software product that allows end users to convert computer-aided design models into robot programs in under 30 minutes, according to Doug Hixon, regional robotic application specialist at ABB.
The model being printed in the demonstration uses PETG plastic, a modified version of PET, which is used for disposable water bottles and other containers.