Our Technology

The core idea to realize autonomous manufacturing is to break down digital designs into a set of primitive manufacturing tasks that can be executed by specialized robots. At AMBOTS, we are developing a crew of mobile robots with specialized functionalities to automate and coordinate these tasks.

MOBILE 3D PRINTING

One primitive manufacturing task is depositing and joining materials at specified locations. 3D printing is an automation of this task, which is one of the most versatile digital manufacturing technologies. Therefore, we developed the first member of our mobile robot crew - a wirelessly controlled mobile robot that can deposit and join materials for 3D printing.

DIGITAL ASSEMBLY

Assembly is another primitive task for manufacturing any sophisticated product. Therefore, we developed a pick-and-place mobile robot for digital assembly to be the second member of our mobile robot crew. More crew members are being developed, such as tape laying robot, inkjet robot, adhesive printing robot, screw driving robot, etc.

CHUNK-BASED 3D PRINTING

To ensure the speed of the 3D printing process is not limited by the size of the object, we developed a new chunk-based 3D printing method, which divides an object into smaller chunks to be printed individually. The chunk-based printing method keeps the 3D printing process localized and solves many issues that arise when the size of the object increases (e.g., warping issue, accuracy control, wait times). The chunk-based printing method has been validated in a tensile strength study, which showed the chunk-bond to be stronger than a regularly 3D printed part.

SWARM 3D PRINTING

To enable a swarm of mobile robots working together without causing conflicts, meticulous planning is needed, just like how a team of humans would work together to accomplish a project. In autonomous manufacturing, software is needed to analyze the digital model, split it into smaller tasks, assign the tasks to different robots, and schedule the robots to finish the tasks in sequence and in parallel. We have developed the necessary software for both swarm 3D printing and for placing pre-made parts into print jobs using gripper robots. A swarm of 16 mobile 3D printers working together to print a 3D map of Arkansas is shown here.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

This technology has been developed by teams of over 30 contributors from both the AM3 Lab and the SiDi Lab. Notable contributors have been listed as co-authors of the publications.

Mobile 3D Printer

Lucas Galvan Marques, Robert Austin Williams, Wenchao Zhou*, A Mobile 3D Printer for Cooperative 3D Printing, 28th International Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin, Texas, August 7-9, 2017

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Wireless Powering

Jacob Currence, Rolando Morales-Ortega, Jason Steck, Wenchao Zhou*, A Floor Power Module for Cooperative 3D Printing, 28th International Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin, Texas, August 7-9, 2017

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Mobile Gripper Robot

Jason Steck, Rolando Morales-Ortega, Jacob Currence, Wenchao Zhou*, A Mobile Gripper Robot for Cooperative 3D Printing, 28th International Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin, Texas, August 7-9, 2017

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Chunk Bond Testing

Laxmi Poudel, Zhenghui Sha, Wenchao Zhou*, Mechanical strength of chunk-based printed parts for cooperative 3D printing, 46th SME North American Manufacturing Research Conference, NAMRC 46, Texas, June 18-22, 2018

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Slicer and Simulator

Jace McPherson and Wenchao Zhou*, A Chunk-based Slicer for Cooperative 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping Journal, Accepted

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