The objective of this design is to create a swarm 3D printing and assembly platform which employs a swarm of printhead-carrying mobile robots to complete sophisticated manufacturing tasks. Similar to how a swarm of bees working together to build their beehive, the swarm of smart mobile robots can work together to print and assemble products based on digital models on demand.
Illustrated here is a model of future factory, consisting of modularly designed tiles for the factory floor to guide the navigation of the robots, mobile robots carrying robotic arms with different end effectors, including filament extruder, gripper for pick-and-placing pre-manufactured components, and other types of robotic toolheads. All the robots are wirelessly connected into the Internet through Wi-Fi and wireless powered through battery for moving and the floor for printing and manufacturing. When a digital model is uploaded to the user interface through a web browser or cell phone, the software will split the model into smaller tasks, assign to different robots, and schedule the robots to finish the manufacturing tasks in parallel without interfering with each other. The demo video is an implemented prototype of the platform, which shows two mobile robots working together to print an object larger than themselves.
The ultimate vision of this technology is to establish a network of digital factories around the world, each equipped with thousands of different types of mobile manufacturing robots, such that users can upload their designs to the cloud to be fabricated in the nearest factory. This network of digital manufacturing infrastructure could make it much easier and economically viable for product designers and entrepreneurs to bring their innovative ideas to market without being discouraged by the cost and complexity of manufacturing and supply chain.