Interview: Fast Radius, Bastian Solutions & HP develop robotic materials handler with industrial additive manufacturing

Chicago-based advanced digital manufacturing company Fast Radius, and Bastian Solutions, the material handling division of Toyota Advanced Logistics, recently debuted the Bastian Solutions Shuttle System, a robotic materials handler with 3D printed parts.

3D Printing Industry spoke with Lou Rassey, CEO of Fast Radius, Hans Leidenfrost, Lead Robotics Design Engineer, Bastian Solutions, and Scott Schiller, Global Head of Market Development, HP, on the development of the robotic Shuttle System and embracing industrial additive manufacturing.

“This is the first technology from Bastian Solutions to use 3D printed parts as the final solution for the end product,” explained Leidenfrost.

“Traditionally, we have only used 3D printing for prototyping, but now this arm is demonstrating to our company that you can go to production with additive parts.”

An arm in additive manufacturing

Leidenfrost explains how Indiana-based Bastian Solutions began working with Fast Radius, “It all started with a desperate search to figure out how to get access to the Carbon L1 machine.”

“After making contact with Carbon, they sent us to an up-and-coming advanced manufacturing provider, which turned out to be Fast Radius. Ever since then they have given us access to emerging additive technologies.”

Fast Radius’ Rassey added, “We began our work together almost two years ago. Bastian Solutions came to us looking for access to the latest in industrial-grade 3D printing technology – Carbon Digital Light Synthesis and HP Multi Jet Fusion. [They] worked with our team and technology platform to produce key parts of the robot arm.”

This collaboration led to a more dexterous arm as a result of additive parts from polymers as opposed to metal components. “Some of these parts are critical, but smaller, like the bumpers between the joints, the joint coverings, and the hatch covers,” continued Leidenfrost.

“Some of the larger and more noticeable parts of the robot arm are the shoulder and elbow joints (made with HP’s PA12 Glass Beads on HP Multi Jet Fusion), as well as the fingers on the robot grippers (made with EPU using Carbon Digital Light Synthesis).”

The Bastian Solutions Shuttle System, featuring 45% 3D printed parts. Screengrab via Fast Radius.
The Bastian Solutions Shuttle System, featuring 45% 3D printed parts. Image via Fast Radius.

A lightweight solution

This arm is aimed at the e-commerce and retail markets, particularly for small mobile autonomous robots which cannot carry heavier and larger arms. Thus, the partners used the HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D printing solution to produce a lighter system with strength and flexibility.

“Weight was a big factor in how the robot arm was designed and manufactured. Bastian and Fast Radius found a way to reduce the weight of the arm with HP 3D High Reusability (HR) PA 12 Glass Beads so it would function properly on a smaller motor,” said Schiller.

“The entire Shuttle System was built with efficiency in mind,” Rassey continued. “In today’s retail and warehouse environments, there is a great need for automated materials handling systems that can navigate ever-tightening shelf spaces.”

According to Leidenfrost, “The product can be as small as a single aisle of pallet racking with a single shuttle, or as large as a warehouse with dozens of shuttles all running around.  Each shuttle weighs roughly 350lbs and can carry 100lbs of product in the grid, or 200lbs when it stays on the floor only.”

This robotic arm, in particular, weighs 37lbs with a reach of 35 inches and can handle a payload of 10lbs. It will officially be going to market in 2020. Presently, the Bastian Solutions team is testing the robotic arm in a real warehouse and retail environments.

High-rigidity parts on Bastian Solutions' robot arm made using HP Multi Jet Fusion. Image via Fast Radius.
High-rigidity parts on Bastian Solutions’ robot arm made using HP Multi Jet Fusion. Image via Fast Radius.

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Featured image shows the Bastian Solutions Shuttle System. Image via Bastian Solutions.