SLAbot-1 Preview at CES Reveals Future

This year’s CES did not disappoint. VR gaming, amazing wearable tech and robots of every kind. One robot mashup involved the 30 year old 3D printing process, stereolithography, and the inventor of that original additive manufacturing technology had a hand in this glimpse of our manufacturing future.

Below is a fantastic article published by 3ders.org, the 3D printer and 3D printing news authority and author Benedict.

3D Systems shows off SLAbot-1 3D printing robotic arm at CES 2016

Strutting their 3D printed stuff amongst the huge number of innovators at CES 2016 were several major 3D printing firms, including the world-famous 3D Systems. The 3D printing giant showcased a range of conventional 3D printers and products, but also had a special surprise up its sleeve: The SLA-bot-1 3D printing robot.

The SLA-bot-1 could be about to change additive manufacturing as we know it. Comprised of a robotic arm equipped with stereolithography apparatus, the technology is seen enclosed in a small manufacturing cell. The robotic arm of the 3D printing robot, which was seen wooing an excited public at the Las Vegas, Nevada showcase, is equipped with a resin projection device for lightning-fast 3D printing, and can then manipulate a 3D printed object in other ways, such as shaking off any excess material and placing the object in a designated finishing area.

“When printing is complete, the SLAbot-1 pulls the build out of the material vat, shakes it free of extraneous material, and deposits the tray and print to the side for retrieval before collecting another tray and beginning the following build,” 3D Systems explained.

The advantages to manufacturers of employing an all-in-one 3D printing process such as that demonstrated by the SLAbot-1 could be huge. Time and cost could both be reduced, whilst the staffing required to oversee the multipurpose robot would be minimal.

“The SLAbot-1 uses an industrial robotic arm, producing parts in sequence,” 3D Systems explained. “This modular, assembly-line-ready additive manufacturing can be configured in large arrays and enables distributed, automated, high-speed, customized manufacturing.”

Chuck Hull, CTO of 3D Systems, patented the stereolithography process back in 1986. That original patent detailed a method for 3D printing “upside down”, through a membrane, a method which 3D Systems has utilized in the SLAbot-1. The technology can therefore be seen as an homage to the heritage of innovation established by Hull and 3D Systems over the years, all the while demonstrating an entirely forward-thinking concept.

“For our 30th anniversary we wanted to take a step back and look at the original patent filed by Chuck Hull,” 3D Systems’ Cathy Lewis explained. “When we looked at the patent, we realized that he had something called ‘Figure 4’, a drawing which had 3D printing almost upside down. The prospect at the time was that it would be super fast, have all different materials and be magical! Go forward 30 years and stereolithography, his technology, is still the most widely used technology in the field.”

The successful demonstration of this latest piece of technology represents the second piece of good news to come out of the 3D Systems camp in 2016, following the unveiling its latest direct metal 3D printer last week. After a turbulent 2015 which saw stock prices fall, the resignation of a popular CEO and the discontinuation of a flagging product, the U.S. company will be taking these small successes as a springboard for a more successful year.

3D Systems has cautioned that the SLAbot-1 concept currently stands more as a technology demonstration than a finished product, but its performance at CES 2016 shows 3D Systems to be well on the way to producing a significant addition to the world of stereolithography.