There are a number of major tech-driven companies that are researching 3D printing technology at a rapid rate, but very few invest as much as time and money into additive manufacturing as Siemens does. Whether they’re building their own €21.4 million metal 3D printing facility or helping 3D printing startups with their endeavors, the global engineering company is betting big within the 3D printing industry. Now, a research team from Siemens Corporate Technology’s Princeton campus has just revealed their latest innovation, the development of autonomous mobile 3D printing devices, which are being called spider-bots.
These unique printing devices, which look like spider-like robots, were almost entirely designed and manufactured by the Siemens Corporate Technology research team. They’re engineered with an extruder similar to the type used with FDM printing, and are able to print in polylactic acid (PLA). The spider-bots are equipped with an onboard camera and a laser scanner as well, which enables them to become aware of the surrounding environment during the print job. Software-wise, they’re all programmed with a modified version of Siemens’ NX PLM software, which is their product development, engineering, and manufacturing software solution. In the near-future, the Siemens research team hopes to utilize these spider-bots within the automotive and aerospace industries.
“We are looking at using multiple autonomous robots for collaborative additive manufacturing of structures, such as car bodies, the hulls of ships and airplane fuselages,” said Livio Dalloro, head of the research project at the Siemens Corporate Technology’s Princeton campus.
Multiple spider-bots can be deployed to complete one print job together, which was made possible by an algorithmically developed multi-robot task planning system. The devices are able to divide their section of the print area into vertical boxes, which enables them to collaborate on a single print. Not only are these spider-bots aware of the area they’re printing upon, they’re also able to autonomously crawl back to the charging station on its own accord. In addition, a low battery spider-bot can also transmit a progress report to another robotic colleague, which will allow these mini-manufacturers to pick up where the other left off. So, don’t be startled if you see some spider-like 3D printers crawling around, they’re just spinning up the next innovative web of additive manufacturing.