Entering the New Fields of Industry – 3D Printing Applied to Robotics

ZORTRAX Robot Arm 3D Printed Custom Parts

Robotics is said to be the very promising area of both science and industry that has gained growing interest thanks to its rapid development. As the history of robotics is seen as a rather 20-th century phenomenon, in fact it roots back to the times of Aristotle, who planted the idea of automated machines. Its visible and rapid development can be observed most recently. Being the leading producer in the additive manufacturing field we couldn’t not take the chance to contribute to this and create a model that shows that creating highly functional models of robots is possible if we have a Zortrax M200 3D printer and some electronics.

Industrial Increase

The industry is undoubtedly the field where robots can bring many benefits. The automated machines seem to be perfect for helping people with tasks that are dangerous, monotonous or too dirty to perform. Manufacturers may choose from the machines dedicated to welding, palletizing, milling, mounting, cleaning, picking and other that, by proper programming, could be adjusted to their needs. Some of them are really good choice when it comes to space limitations, as they do not require big working area or even protective barriers, so they can be placed right next to the production line. The device can be programmed to dispense accurate amounts of substances like e.g. glue so it doesn’t waste the sources and help to save them. But the main thing here is that robots are fully automatized devices capable of performing repetitive tasks over the long period with great precision and with small failure parameter.

Robots that bring ROI

Robotics is a fast-developing branch not only due to the fact, that it brings technological advancement and efficiency to the processes within the company, but also thanks to the financial matters. By their productivity and ability to work long hours without pauses, robots can lead to the production increase within short time, which in practice translates to the faster return of the invested capital. It should be also highlighted here that robots doesn’t require any implementation period and they can work with the constant efficiency, as it doesn’t depend on the conditions.

Medicine at the Forefront 

As dr Feliga, a surgeon with great experience in performing varicose veins surgeries says, in one of our previous posts, “The human factor is unreliable’’. This fact basically explains many attempts to use automated machines in various methods of treatment. Most obviously, to obtain more precision in highly complex surgeries and help in reaching the poorly accessible parts of patients’ bodies. Incorporating medical robots in the field of medicine can also shrink the recuperation time after the surgery due to the fact that the cuts on patient’s body are smaller and the whole procedure is less invasive. The core value here is basically the patient, the lesser amount of his or her suffering together with quicker health improvement – and that’s the argument that prevails when considering incorporating robotics in the field of medicine.

A Multitask Tool

However, robots involved in medical surgeries or other branches that require great precision and steadiness of movement need to be tested thoroughly. That creates the room for additive manufacturing technology providing affordable materials and numerous possibilities for utilizing. Mainly as a great source to provide physicians with cheap prototypes they can evaluate and learn on. The Robotic Arm, a model available to download in Zortrax Model Library is an example that shows, that creating such device is not only a matter of a great invention, but also the materials from which the robot is produced. The project shows that incorporating the 3D printer is vital, when we want to obtain high quality and functionality of a model fast and cost-effectively. Thanks to the strong and resistant materials from the Zortrax offer like Z-ULTRAT or Z-HIPS, creating models for testing and displays is entirely possible. Zortrax Robotic Arm is presented as an example how a highly functional prototype that can as well serve as an end use product, could be obtained with low expenses and labor (all the data concerning the use of materials, cost and electronics is provided in the last paragraph). It is a matter to consider that before having a robot in our workplace, we could try having a desktop 3D printer.

Customizable Parts – You’ve Got the Basis

The example prepared by the Zortrax engineer shows, that the robot may be helpful in moving elements from one place to another thanks to the grasper mounted at the end of the arm. However, the area of development is really broad here as anyone can print their own part according to the individual needs and tasks that are to be finished. Thanks to the huge variety of uses, we can end with plenty of different mounting parts and have proper help with our works just by changing the parts each time it is necessary. The core of the robot is the mechanism, which allows the robot to work, although other parameters like size, shape and the ergonomics of the robot can be adjustable and may vary according to one’s preferences. In our Zortrax Model Library we give you the complete set of files and the manual of the Zortrax Robotic Arm – to serve as the basis for you to work on at minimum costs and with the ability to add various modifications. For those extra focused on the looks of the robot, we showed how to post-process the model to get the surfaces extra polished and smooth. As we strongly believe in the creativity of our users, we expect to receive many great versions and modifications applied to our robotic arm in the Zortrax Model Library.

The Helping Hand of the Future – Zortrax Robotic Arm

The Robotic Arm was 3D printed on Zortrax M200 3D printer with its main body created with Z-ULTRAT to guarantee the model is rock-solid, durable and will resist performing multiple actions. The decorative elements were printed with blue Z-ABS which is the most basic printing material from the Zortrax offer. The total usage of the materials is approx. 0,8 kg (700g of gray Z-ULTRAT and 100g of blue Z-ABS). The complete model consists of 23 printed pieces. The suggested infill of the arm is LIGHT – it will guarantee the arm is light and because of that easy to maneouvre. The additional advantage of choosing this infill is that it will be printed much faster and the total cost of the print will be lower.

The whole mechanism is based on three motors that allow the robot to produce the sequence of movements, so it all results in automatized actions. The size of the motors is also linked with the lifting capacity of the device, in case of the Zortrax Robotic Arm having Nema17 stepper motors, it is able to lift objects that weigh up to 0,1 kg. The number of motors is yet another thing, as this is directly responsible for the arm degree of freedom. To put it simple – the more motors the arm has, the more diversity of movement (performing moves on more axes) it will have. However, the number and size of motors is a matter of the preferences, so if there is a necessity to lift heavier objects, or move in more directions we just have to mount different motors .

ZORTRAX Robotic Arm 3D Printed Z-ULTRAT Z-ABS

The robot moves on five axes, which allow the device to rotate and to move in translational directions. By increasing the number of axes we can provide more precision and accessibility as the device has the capacity to reach and grab elements under different angles and fit them into the particular place or pattern. If the arm is able to rotate around its vertical axe it can pick objects from its working area.

The Robotic Arm has a grasper mounted on its end, but it can be replaced with an electromagnet, drill, sucker or other according to the needs. The approximate cost of the print is 42 USD. The printing time of each part vary between 1 to 20 hours.

ZORTRAX Robotic Arm 3D Printed Assembly

The model could be used as a fully functional prototype that simulates the features of the original, or an end-use product thanks to its quality and durability.

The parts of the Robotic Arm undergone post-processing to improve their looks. To obtain results such as these presented in the pictures, the engineer used wet and dry sand paper with various grit, primer, spray spackling, heat gun, paint and varnish. Sanding was the process that appeared most frequently, as it is the most common way of polishing bigger or finer residue on a model (according to the size of grit), what is more, before the pen-ultimate polishing, the paper could be damped in water to reduce the friction while rubbing against the surface and obtain ultra polished finish. After the surface was polished with the sand paper the thin layers of primer and sparkling paste were put to fill out the micro holes and make the surface even and smooth. the main body of the robotic arm was also covered withe the black paint, the designer decided to use the spray formula to get thinner layers of paint and avoid damp patches. To make the arm shiny and resistant to scratches, it was covered with spray varnish. Another simple method used to post-process the poorly-accessible places of small objects is flaming, where you just have to put the particular element close to the flame of the heat gun and see the tiny imperfections disappear under the heat. As usual, we advice to perform the activity in protective gloves to avoid burns and be extra careful not to destroy the model. The complete step-by-step manuals covering various post-processing techniques for 3D prints can be found on our Support Center.