Student Teaches Kuka Robot New Tricks with Some Help from 3D Printing

We really do live in a time of great discovery, as more and more we are seeing different approaches to digital manufacturing blend together to offer new solutions. While we quite literally have our hands full trying to keep up with “standard” 3D printing, we often run into cases where other technologies combine with 3D printing to push one another’s boundaries.

Kuka Weaving3

This is often seen in artistic and academic research, where the objective is not necessarily to produce something commercially viable as much as it is to explore new roads to find out if something can or cannot be done. This is the case for a graduate project conducted by Basia Dżaman for her Industrial Design studies at the School of Form in Poznan, Poland.

Having access to a Kuka robotic arm, she was able to 3D print tailor made parts that enable the machine to weave carbon fiber coated with resin. The Kuka arm can be used for just about any type of digital production (Basia herself has programmed it to be a plotter and CNC mill in the past) and even as an extrusion system for 5 and 7 axes 3D printing.

In this case, Basia programmed it using Grasshopper to operate as an advanced “weaving machine” and was, thus, able to build a carbon construction around a supporting structure. The resulting stitches were taken from a Polish traditional embroidery style called “snutki” and were used as an example of “how to use the technology”. The program that guides the robot is flexible and generates a different outcome depending on the input points.

Kuka Weaving2

She built the tailor-made Kuka parts on a Zortrax 3D printer. Each part took a maximum of 3-5 hours to manufacture and assemble onto the robot. While the possible applications of this new trick will require some more exploration, the fact itself that such a project was possible seems significant. Before desktop 3D printing, developing a tailor-made component for a Kuka Robot within the context of a student project was not a matter of time, it was just plain impossible.

Kuka Weaving4