3DP Applications

How Universal Robots powers 24/7 3D printing for production

In the middle of a farm of 160 3D printers, the Universal Robots UR10 works tirelessly to keep production running 24/7. Wirelessly monitored, the robot arm is responsible for loading and unloading build plates, then stacking finished prints onto a conveyor belt. It is Voodoo Manufacturing’s secret weapon for competing with injection molding.

Since installing the UR10, Voodoo’s 3D printer utilization at Voodoo has risen from a manually operated 30-40%, up to 90%. As the farm of 160 3D printers grows, so too will the number of UR10s.

“When we were looking for a robotic arm, we were looking for one that could do the tasks, but would also be easily programmable and get up and running very quickly,” explains Jonathan Schwartz Chief Product Officer of Voodoo Manufacturing.

“For us, Universal Robots’ UR10 was a great option. And from here on out as we scale, we can just buy more arms as we have more and more printers.”

Human-robot collaboration in a safe environment

Around one fifth of the cost of industrial robotic arms, the UR10 is a rated “collaborative” robot, making it the ideal companion in human-robot work environments.

Unlike industrial counterparts, the vast majority of Universal Robots’ products operate outside segregated safety cages which tend to make automation expensive and inaccessible to SMEs.

The safety system implemented in the UR10 is approved by the German Technical Inspection Association TÜV NORD, certifying that the built-in force control limits the forces at contact and does not cause bodily harm.

Within six months of installation at Voodoo’s factory in Brooklyn, the first UR10 already made a full ROI.

Humans and UR robots in close-collaboration. Photo via Voodoo Manufacturing/Universal Robots
Humans and UR robots in close-collaboration. Photo via Voodoo Manufacturing/Universal Robots

Plug in & play ability

Additionally, Universal Robots arms are designed to be user-friendly and easily integrated into a customers’ existing workspace. The Universal Robots+ platform (UR+) is specially developed for this purpose to help achieve “plug in & play” use of UR products.

As with all robotic arms, the UR10 needs gripper attachments to help it perform each specific job.

“We looked at different robot arms,” explains Charlie Fenwick, industrial engineer at Voodoo Manufacturing, “but none of them had the ability to easily interface with the peripherals required to get the complete application up and running.”

Universal Robots+ provides customers a list of peripherals certified for use with its robot products Voodoo chose the UR+ certified gripper from Robotiq with programming software integrated directly onto the UR robot’s touch screen. “Getting the gripper to work with the arm was almost like building a Power Point slide, by just dragging blocks of information onto the screen,” adds Fenwick.

“All you have to do is link up the different blocks and it basically runs itself.”

Universal Robots’ system works day and night in Project Skywalker. Clip via Voodoo Manufacturing

The future of automation

The UR10, as the name suggests, can manage a maximum payload of 10kg per operation. Two of the UR10 arms, mounted on roaming mobile bases, currently operate Voodoo’s 160 3D printers across an 18,000 square foot factory floor. But their versatility means that they could be repurposed for other ambitious automation projects in the future.

The goal for Voodoo is to reduce the costs by 90% over the next three years, a target that will be assuredly fulfilled with cooperation of Universal Robots.

Schwartz concludes:

“If we’re going to increase our output ten-fold over the next couple of years, we have to do that without increasing our costs by 10x and the robots will be instrumental in achieving this.”

“Beyond this there are many other opportunities in our factory to automate; whether it is removing parts from the build plates, or cleaning them, or inspecting them for quality, or eventually even packing and shipping.”

Take a step into the future of automation with the UR10, UR5 and UR3 arms, and find out more at Universal Robots.

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Featured image shows a close-up of the Robotiq gripper on a UR10 robotic arm installed at Voodoo Manufacturing in Brooklyn. Photo via Universal Robots