iRobot files patent application for autonomous all-in-one 3D printing, milling, drilling and finishing robot

January 28, 2013

Robotic Fabricator (credit: iRobot)

Well, just when you thought 3D printing was finally putting you back in charge of creating your own stuff, along comes iRobot Corporation with a U.S. patent application for a “Robotic Fabricator.”

It’s conceived as a completely autonomous all-in-one product fabrication robot that handles manufacturing (including 3D printing) and all the post-printing work, from seed component to mature product, 3Ders reports.

A Robotic Fabricator would automate manufacturing and assembly processes to reduce the need for human labor, decrease manufacturing costs, and improve product quality.

Product fabrication is centered around a six-axis industrial robotic manipulator that handles the product from seed component to mature product. The primary manipulator positions the product for manufacturing operations such as additive and subtractive manufacturing (3D printing, milling and drilling). A secondary manipulator handles component pick-and-place and secondary manufacturing operations such as wire placement and hardware testing.

The system may include one or more sensors that can measure parameters and characteristics of the product being manufactured while the process is taking place. For example, the system can include a precision visual scanning device that will generate precise measurements of the product being fabricated. Information collected by the sensor may be used by the fabrication machine to adjust subsequent steps in the manufacturing process. The sensors can also be used for detecting electrical anomalies in wiring to add wires or cables to a product etc.

The fabrication machine also uses a pick-and-place manufacturing method with the added capability of operating in six degrees of freedom, allowing for the placement of components in arbitrary locations on the product assembly.