At Automate 2022, ABB showcased a 3D printing system with its IRB 4400 robotic arm fitted 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 quite some time now, especially since it has moved beyond prototyping and into actual production applications.
For example, many manufacturers have started using AM to rapidly 3D print spare and replacement parts for on-site equipment to speed repairs, reduce costs, reduce unplanned downtime, and save valuable warehouse space by avoiding having to stock parts in advance. In the automotive and aerospace industries, its main advantage has been to produce innovative, lightweight components that cannot be achieved by traditional manufacturing techniques – a development that has been a boon as automakers strive to increase fuel economy without compromising the safety or structural integrity of their automobiles and aircraft.
Additionally, much like having a backup server or installing redundancy in critical systems, the on-demand nature of 3D printing can help end users overcome the increasingly common disruptions in the supply chain.
ABB’s demonstration had several key elements:
- The IRB 4400 is a high-speed robotic arm with a load capacity of 60 kg. It also features extensive communication capabilities, including serial links and network interfaces, as well as PLC, remote I/O and fieldbus interfaces.
- The MDPE10 particle extruder is a direct print extruder capable of producing 10 lbs per hour.
- RobotStudio 3D Printing PowerPac is a software product from ABB that enables end users to convert computer-aided design models into robot programs in less than 30 minutes, according to Doug Hixon, regional robot applications specialist at ABB.
The model printed in the demo uses PETG plastic, a modified version of PET, which is used for disposable water bottles and other containers.