3D Printers

Ambots, collaborative mobile 3D printers, usher in new era of digital factory

Ambots, an Arkansas-based 3D printing technology and assembly provider, has developed a class of mobile robots, which the founders say will initiate a new kind of digital factory.

Wenchao Zhou, co-founder of Ambots, said, “Right now, we’re trying to figure out the minimum set of robots needed for a generic digital factory.”

Mobile 3D printer

As a company, Ambots was founded in the AM3Lab and System Integration & Design Informatics Laboratory (SiDi Lab) at the University of Arkansas by Wenchao Zhou, Lucas Marques, and Austin Williams.

As a product, on the other hand, Ambots stands for Autonomous Mobile roBOTS and Advanced Manufacturing roBOTS. These compact machines incorporate a FDM/FFF 3D printer with an E3D V6 HotEnd, and are 80% percent 3D printed. Four omni wheels enable the Ambots to move across the X and Y axes, with two ADNS-9800 laser motion sensors controlled via a wireless connection.

Designed to work collaboratively, Ambots can in theory move around the entire factory to 3D print parts, enabling multicolor and multi-material end products.

Wenchao Zhou, co-founder of Ambots with mobile 3D printers. Image via Ambots.
Wenchao Zhou, co-founder of Ambots with mobile 3D printers. Image via Ambots.

Distributed manufacturing 

The vision for Ambots creators is thousands of these mobile devices working together on a single task, facilitating 3D printing for large-scale and mass-manufacturing purposes. Referencing 3D printing’s role in distributed manufacturing, Zhou also explains, “Manufacturing technology is a symbol of the level of human civilization. For most of human history, craftsmen customized products, be it clothes, shoes or even weapons. But today, everything is mass produced, due to cost. We want to change this.”

Currently, Ambots is making efforts to set up a small digital factory at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park (ARTP). The team plans to open this facility within two years.

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Featured image shows Wenchao Zhou, co-founder of Ambots with mobile 3D printers. Image via Ambots.