Robotic arms and 3D printing are fast becoming synonymous with one another; MX3D are popularising the use of arc welding and robotic arms techniques with its 3D printed bridge concept in Amsterdam and at CES 2016 3D Systems showcased its new SLA-bot concept using an off-the-shelf arm as both the z-axis and as a pick-and-place automator.
The latest company to merge the world of robotics and 3D printing is Delcam, which has added an ABB robot fitted with a Fronius CMT advanced welding head to the range of manufacturing equipment at its Birmingham site. The new unit will be used mainly for research into the programming of robots for the additive manufacturing of metals with Delcam’s PowerMILL Robot software.
Cold Metal Transfer welding was initially developed by Fronius to join materials with different properties, in particular for welding aluminium to steel. The process uses very high frequency movement of the wire to give a clean, spatter-free material transfer. It provides a stable, reproducible deposition of material that Delcam believes should have great potential in metal additive manufacturing.
The ABB robot arm offers six axes of movement, with an additional two axes, tilt and rotation, provide by the table holding the material. This additional flexibility allows parts to be oriented into the optimum position as they are being built so enabling complex shapes to be created with less need for extra support structures.
PowerMILL Robot makes it as easy to program a robot for machining as it is to program a five-axis machine tool. As a fully-associated application inside PowerMILL, users have access to all the multi-axis machining strategies within PowerMILL and can use all the system’s project management options to manage, store and retrieve data.
As well as making it possible to program robots for additive manufacturing, PowerMILL Robot can be used for tool-to-part applications, especially for machining large parts, such as composite panels that need to be trimmed, or for part-to-tool applications, such as grinding or polishing.