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News Link • 3D Printing

Why aren’t there more 3D printers with robotic arms?

•, By Signe Brewster

Robotic arm 3D printers are cool. Really cool. Instead of printing within a box, they can build towering structures. They also aren’t limited to the layer-by-layer approach of the average consumer printer; they’re freeform. They’re common in manufacturing, but why aren’t there any available to the average 3D printer user? A few experts offered up their opinion.

Cornell engineering professor and “Fabricated” author Hod Lipson:

Because gantry systems (the static metal rods that guide print heads in 3D printers like MakerBots) are simpler, cheaper and more accurate than a robotic arm, especially for linear motion. Robotic arms have advantages for printing larger objects, e.g. see the work being done on architectural scale printing at Loughborough printed with a robotic arm.
Robotic arms are typically viewed as less safe. They can swing rapidly in any direction, etc. They often require some type of cage or shield to safeguard against injury. Six-axis motion control is also more expensive, typically. Clearly, these types of robots are widely used in traditional manufacturing, so there is no fundamental reason why that platform type could not be used for 3D printing.

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