Amsterdam Based Startup MX3D, ABB and Altair Present Their 3D Printed Optimized Robot Arm

Generative Design Customization + WAAM Printed

Amsterdam, 8 July, 2020 – Metal 3D printing company MX3D has printed an optimized industrial robot arm, designed by engineers at Altair for a robot supplied by ABB. This project is an application of large-scale 3D metal printing for Heavy Equipment Parts with the goal of customizing and optimizing the robot arm for operational requirements and conditions. It shows the potential of using Generative Design Customization and a Digital Twin Design approach to increase productivity for tailored robotic applications. The stainless steel robot arm is fully 3D printed via Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) at >50% reduced weight compared to the original part.

Robot arm (Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke)
Robot arm (Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke)

The robot arm is re-designed by Altair engineers using Generative Design Customization to generate the most efficient shape and operational performance of the robot arm. Next to increased productivity, the robot arm was optimized for handling improvements (lower kinetic energy), higher precision and build rates via the Digital Twin Design process. This process included performance requirement identification via kinematic motion simulation of assemblies. Generative design was applied to create new designs with geometric efficiencies derived from the topology concept which were then compared and validated on the grounds of performance and manufacturing feasibility.

The robot arm is fully 3D printed in stainless steel using an advanced version of MX3D’s WAAM technology. This technology features advanced geometry processing which allows complex organic geometries to be printed upright. Intelligent algorithms also determine the optimal printing strategy and tool path direction for each geometry feature, ensuring the part is built up efficiently. While the original part was 150 kg, the generative robot arm weighs only 73 kg, resulting in >50% material weight reduction. With 24/7 production, the print can be performed in 4 days. The part is finished by a standard 3-axis milling machine to achieve the right tolerances at the connecting points. After the successful print, the joint partners now intend to re-assemble the complete robot.

Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke
Robot arm topology optimization (Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke)

The goal of the joint project was to enable the manufacturing of customized replacement parts. This allows for a rapid and automated production of large-scale parts that normally require extensive tooling and overseas production, causing long lead times and limited customization options. Equipment manufacturers and sellers now have the possibility to manufacture spare parts in-house, without the need of an external casting and milling company.

MX3D recently released MetalXL, a basic version of its software allowing users to quickly start 3D printing large-scale metal objects in their own facilities. MetalXL Beta\01 is currently being tested by selected users with an advanced beta version being made available to additional customers in Q1 2020. For more information, visit www.mx3d.com/software. Or meet us at hall 11 booth A58 at FormNext from 19 to 22 November in Frankfurt (DE) where MX3D will launch its MetalXL beta software. You can also visit Altair at FormNext at booth E11 for more information and inspiration on their software and solutions.

MX3D robot arm installed (Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke)
MX3D robot arm installed (Photo by Merlin Moritz and Thomas Van Glabeke)

“We’re getting much interest from corporates to print large-scale heavy equipment parts. This is either for R&D purposes, low volume production or in case a critical part breaks down unanticipated and need to be replaced fast. MX3D is able to print these parts reliably and fast with WAAM technology. Moreover, the business case improves even further if an optimized design of the part is printed. Altair’s software enables these optimizations via generative design customization. For the robot arm we printed, more than half of the original weight was eliminated due to the optimization while taking into account printing constraints. A great accomplishment!” Thomas Van Glabeke – Project Lead / Technical Business Developer at MX3D

Project Team
Project Lead: MX3D – Thomas Van Glabeke
Design and Engineering: Altair – Mirko Bromberger, Jaideep Bangal, Tony Gray and Michael Wawrzinek
3D Printing: MX3D – Thomas van Glabeke, Richard van Dam, Cas Nieuwland and Max Peek
Robotics: ABB – Martin Have and Gino Seesing

To view the new robot arm, press here.

About Altair (Nasdaq: ALTR)
“We are thrilled to collaborate with MX3D and are proud to contribute to its vision of developing tailored robotics. The challenge in this showcase was particularly exciting as our Altair team supported the robot customization redesign from the earliest stages, helping to identify requirements for optimal operational conditions with a digital twin representing the entire system. We are looking forward to seeing the project progress as our efforts help to increase MX3D’s productivity, ” said James Dagg – CTO, Modeling and Visualization at Altair Engineering.

Altair is a global technology company that provides software and cloud solutions in the areas of product development, high performance computing (HPC) and data analytics. Altair enables organizations across broad industry segments to compete more effectively in a connected world while creating a more sustainable future. To learn more, please visit www.altair.com.

ABB
“ABB Robotics is a proud supporter of MX3D and we are happy to support this business case. We believe that new technologies like rapid manufacturing will add new possibilities within the market of industrial robots. This could be spare parts, cover plates, construction parts of other unique parts needed to complete the mechanical construction of a production robot. Let’s write the future of robotics. Together ,” said Martin van der Have – Sales & Marketing Manager at ABB Robotics in the Benelux.

ABB is a leading supplier of industrial robots and robot software, equipment and complete application solutions. We’re at home in 53 countries and have installed more than 300,000 robots, supported by the broadest service network and offering in the industry.

Beside the traditional industries like automotive and food & beverage a number of new exciting markets are adopting more and more industrial robots. Heavy Industrial Equipment industries isone of them and creating a large-scale robot arm via 3D printing with arc welding robots is a challenging project to prove also industrial robots have benefits in the heavy industrial equipment industry.

MX3D | Robotic 3D Metal Printing
The Dutch company MX3D develops robotic metal 3D print technology. The company is expanding rapidly. Their proprietary software turns an off-the-shelf robotic arm and a welding machine in an industrial manufacturing machine. In collaboration with Autodesk, TU Delft, ArcelorMittal, ABB, Lenovo, Arup and AirLiquide, MX3D has become a technology provider for several industrial parties that are entering the market for large-scale metal printing.

Creative projects are used to develop critical knowhow by doing. The bronze Butterfly Screen by Joris Laarman led to the ability to print a Marine Shipping Propeller. Further R&D enabled the company to 3D print a fully functional piece of infrastructure: the 3D printed MX3D Bridge for the city center of Amsterdam. And the Aluminum Bicycle Arc II is the prelude of a much bigger project, for which the company will send out a press release soon.

Parallel to this, MX3D is working with artists, architects and several industrials to introduce Robotic Wire and Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) into their workflow. Large-scale industrial prototypes are currently being produced in the MX3D workshop. For more information, see www.mx3d.com/projects.

MX3D Prizes
MX3D was awarded several prestigious prizes. The MX3D Bridge Project received the 2018 STARTS Prize from the European Commission for the best Arts and Technology project, chosen out of 2,300+ project worldwide. The project also received the Dutch Design Award & the 3D Printing Challenge award.

In June 2019 MX3D was selected as a Top 20 Most Innovative Company by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

In July 2019 MX3D was selected as one of Europe’s Hottest Robotic Startups by the Jury of RobotUnion (the EU Robotic startup accelerator program).

In 2020, the MX3D Robot Arm project was selected as one of the finalists for the 3D Pioneers Challenge.

For more, see mx3d.com/news.

Visitor Center
The MX3D hosts groups in their visitor center offering an opportunity for professionals to see the printing process and discuss the possibilities. Information can be found at mx3d.com/visit.

Source: MX3D

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