Ford uses a robot to move and assemble 3D printed parts. KUKA Systems Corp. created a mobile cobot at its Ford Advanced Manufacturing Center in Michigan. Ford employees maintain the equipment, design new applications for the technology and send 3D drawings to the printer.
Once the staff have left, Ford can continue to use the KUKA robot to run its 3D printers. The company says this not only increases throughput, but also reduces the price of custom-printed products. A brake line bracket for the Mustang Shelby GT500 with the Performance package is one of the unique low-volume items Ford has created with the printer.
The company said the robot is essential to its development of an innovative technique that would use an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) instead of a fixed, stationary unit to operate carbon 3D printers.
Ford has applied for a number of patents related to the overall process, communication interfaces and precise positioning of the robot, which does not require the use of a camera vision system to “see”, as part of its ongoing development effort.
Ford has created an interface that allows the various components of the 3D printer to interact with each other in novel ways. For example, the robot notifies the carbon 3D printers when the printed object will be ready for pick-up, and the robot notifies the printer when it has arrived and is ready for pick-up.
The way we employ robotics in our production facilities may be altered as a result of this new procedure, according to Jason Ryska, Ford’s director of global manufacturing technology development. According to Ford, this technology also applies to other elements of our manufacturing processes, allowing us to simplify equipment and be even more flexible on the assembly line. With it, Ford is able to expand its 3D printing operations.