3D Printed SlothBot

News from 3D PRINT.COM

The development of 3D-printed robots is no longer a novelty. Recently, students from Georgia Tech (School for Electrical Engineering and Information Technology) have developed an extraordinary robot. The robot being referred to is SlothBot, which is partly additively manufactured. This adorable robot is meant to be a long-term environmental observer. SlothBot hangs out in the trees, watching the plants, animals, and environmental conditions and moving only when necessary.


The Georgia Tech team first started working on the SlothBot last year, completing a much smaller prototype for the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. The current iteration, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, is three feet long. The robot takes inspiration from its animal namesake, showing how a slower pace can work for some applications. The resemblance with an actual sloth can be seen not only in the design but also in the robot’s slow mode of locomotion.


The researchers programmed it to move along a 100-foot cable strung between two trees, using sensors to track data such as carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and weather. It only moves when it needs to and searches for sunshine to recharge its solar-powered batteries. Eventually, the SlothBot will be able to cover more ground by climbing from cable to cable, as a sloth might.


The SlothBot features a 3D-printed shell, with an attached solar panel that powers the motors, gearing, batteries and sensors inside. It’s only the latest example of 3D printing being used to help save endangered species.


It quickly became clear during the development stage that the robot would have to withstand long-term weather fluctuations. As a solution, the researchers used 3D printing, more specifically an FFF 3D printer, to manufacture a cover that would protect the electronics. One of the advantages of 3D printing lies in the freedom of design – since the SlothBot will be used in places where visitors are present, the goal is for the robot not to be perceived as a nuisance.


An even greater advantage, however, is the weight reduction made possible by 3D printing. After all, the SlothBot will be powered by solar cells, thus, it should be as energy-efficient as possible.


“This is not the way robots are normally developed today, but if SlothBot is slow and energy-efficient, it can linger in the environment to observe what we can only see if we are present for months or even years without interruption,” stated by Steve W. Chaddick.


Applications of the SlothBot


The team says that SlothBot can aid them in better understanding the abiotic elements that impact critical ecosystems so that animals and the ecosystems themselves can be better protected. But, the low-energy robot could also be used in precision agriculture, relying on its sensors and a camera to measure humidity, watch for insect infestation, and even detect crop diseases early.


The SlothBot is already being used in a botanical garden in Atlanta. There it moves along a taut rope that is almost 30 meters long. In the future, the SlothBot should be able to monitor forest areas of up to 30 hectares. For this purpose, only some additional lanes will have to be set up. The idea is that the robot will stay put most of the time, and move only when measurements of temperature and carbon dioxide are to be taken. The measurements should help to better understand the environment and protect endangered plants and animals.


“With the rapid loss of biodiversity and the potential extinction of more than a quarter of the world’s plants, SlothBot offers a great opportunity to work towards the conservation of the rare species,” pointed out by Mr Coffey, the owner of the botanical garden.


Before it moves on, the SlothBot could also get Botanical Garden visitors, especially children, more interested in conservation efforts.

In the long term, more robots will be used to monitor forests or even agricultural lands to make observations that will help prevent pest infestation!

Advanced Medical Manufacturing by Using 3D Printing

News from SME

AM sparkles for making one-of-a-kind parts and products with complex, organic shapes. This imitates nature’s method of making every human body part unique. 


Medical device producers found this years prior, applying the technology to the production of in-the-ear hearing aids, most of which are customized. Today, the shells for these hearing aid products are made using AM. The hearing instrument industry was the first to adopt AM across most major manufacturers, including Phonak, ReSound, Singia (formerly Siemens), Starkey, and Widex. This shows how AM can become a go-to production method when the application is a perfect fit for the technology.


AM for medical implants is additionally significant. They require complex textures, trabecular surfaces, to integrate with the surrounding tissue. AM is the most capable method for these structures in infinitely variable patterns. Stryker has used AM to produce more than 300,000 orthopaedic devices for patients, many with trabecular surfaces.


Implant production utilizing AM is already a maturing and growing industry, yet generally for standard items and sizes. Examples: acetabular hip cups, spinal implants, and knee replacements. Custom implants are used but are more expensive. Each implant must be modelled from scan data, built and checked. It is believed that custom implants will become more common in the future.


The Central University of Technology’s Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) in South Africa has used titanium facial implants to successfully treat cancer patients for years. Lately, CRPM designed cages into the implant to hold proteins that stimulate jawbone ingrowth. After treatment and bone growth, the patient can receive dental implants.

Creating Complex Designs

3D printing makes possible the design freedom for complex casts. Unlike injection moulding, urethane casting allows for varying wall thickness and does not require a draft. Production with a 3D printed master pattern allows designers to incorporate organic shapes, embossed text and consolidated part designs into a cast. Due to the soft silicone moulding process, it is now able to produce very large parts quickly. Production of medical cart housings and large panels are possible for bigger products. Full finishing and post-processing of casts are also available, including production painting and texture, EMI/RFI shielding and co-moulding inserts.

Eliminating Hard Tooling Costs

Due to the quick production of silicone moulds, cast urethanes have low overhead tooling costs; parts can be delivered in as little as seven days. Frequently, engineers will use cast urethanes when they need to develop lower quantities of parts quickly and are unsure about long-term quantities for the market and therefore cannot make significant capital investments in production tooling. Cast urethanes allow the production of parts quarter by quarter, with the added benefit of easy design changes. Speed to market continues to be key for the medical industry, and the improved production time possible with urethane casting allows for early revenue.

To push standardization initiatives, more AM medical case data need distributing, indicating that AM-based treatments are safe and effective. Fortunately, the number of AM-related articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals dramatically increased from 2014 to 2018.


Influential groups are being framed to help advance the adoption of AM in the medical industry. Hospitals without on-site AM capabilities can find support from gatherings. Professor Deon de Beer and Dr Gerrie Booysen pointed out that surgery time—including ICU access, high-care facilities, and dedicated medical staff time—is cut in half when AM is used. Patient recovery is also faster and outcomes are more successful.


Today, what we see of AM in the medical field is the tip of the iceberg. Different subjects such as regenerative medicine, 3D bioprinting, stem-cell research, 3D-printed drugs, and custom medical devices highlight a future where AM could  benefit every human being’s quality of life!

3D Printing for Serial Production

News from tct Magazine

Online 3D printed parts for serial production


“2020 marks a new decade in which manufacturing will become more localised, on-demand and freed of design constraints. 3D printing is a key driver of this change.”


3D printing now is adopted by the early majority for serial production. With ubiquitous applications across multiple industries—including automotive, aerospace, maritime, medical, space, sports, motorsports, railway, and defence—3D printing is changing new product development and aftermarket supply chains globally. 3D printing is only one part of the new digital manufacturing stack. Joined by other digital manufacturing technologies, such as CNC machining and low-run injection moulding, and empowered by digital supply chains and smart factories, 3D printing is forming the new manufacturing landscape.


The latest industry report by online 3D printing network 3D Hubs has found that the total value of parts 3D printed in the last year gained a 300% increase, suggesting a shift to a more professional, industrial-centric user base. The report also found that 40% of all online 3D printed parts in 2019 were designed for serial production, based on insights from the company’s order database and a review of the market. Additionally, more professional users are turning to online platforms to fulfil their manufacturing needs, driven by the availability of and access to multiple processes and materials that they may not be able to invest in in-house. Furthermore, the report found that 3D printing is being complemented by other technologies such as CNC machining and low-run injection moulding on the factory floor.


The leading AM companies including HP, Formlabs and Carbon expressed their thoughts on how the industry will progress; “impossible geometries” thanks to a better understanding of design for additive manufacturing, increased accessibility to more powerful systems, and breakthrough applications that will replace traditional processes, were cited as key predictions for the industry going forward.


The Untapped Potential – Medical 3D printing 

Medical equipment manufacturers can leverage additive manufacturing to improve performance and enhance patient outcomes.


Medical equipment manufacturers serious about taking advantage of AM’s benefits need an equally engaged partner who brings more to the table than just 3D printers. The right partner will help an organization implement the technology and accompanying procedures to operate more efficiently, better serving client needs. AM is relatively new and lack of standards to reference can be an impediment. Therefore, it’s important to find a knowledgeable consultant team to ensure success when communicating with regulatory bodies and identifying gaps in quality systems.


If companies can identify products or situations where AM can be applied, they can better set up quality systems to leverage data for fast-follower products in their AM pipeline. Much of this groundwork is done before production begins. A partner must offer a high degree of engagement on the front end to understand what the producer is trying to accomplish and how to help get there. So-called Additive Minds – human-centred design and innovation experts who work to minimize risks while quickly getting to serial production with the greatest possible design freedom.


Once systems are operational, the right partner will help producers think toward future applications and ensure platforms are built to sustain future production needs. Ideally, an expert partner will also offer education and training opportunities. Whether learning the fundamentals and safety measures or more advanced capabilities of AM machines, they’ll ensure producers get the most out of their investments.


The history of quality offered by experienced AM technology partners, as well as the technology’s ability to create complex geometrical structures, makes it ideal for high-value applications within medical settings. For medical equipment manufacturers, it’s important to recognize the powerful capabilities of 3D printing to better serve clients now and into the future!

AM is Driving Industry Change – 3D Printed Tools, Jigs and Fixtures

News from Institution of Mechanical Engineers

The advantages of utilizing additive manufacturing either as an independent innovation or joining into existing procedures are wide-extending, however the comprehension by organisations of how to use to best impact may not be as clear.


Incorporating 3D printing into the organization’s daily activities, was found to essentially decrease the expense of creating customised tooling, jigs, and fixtures, notwithstanding sparing time by manufacturing these parts in-house.


Item advancement and mechanical creation procedures can be moderately costly because of high fixed expenses, so associations need to see how added substance assembling can be utilized to profit their organizations and lessen costs, improve lead time or more all, include an incentive before it can be utilized to its maximum capacity.


3D printing can give another degree of proficiency in assembling. As a result of AM, costly physical stockpiling is changing for digital inventories with on-demand parts. Tools, jigs, fixtures and fittings can be created on site. Engineers can develop new items quicker, with better execution and streamlined geometries. Associations can adjust to change all the more rapidly, decline lead time and lower costs by stock, work and transportation decrease.


Firms don’t have to make parts in the house any more. Rather, they can utilize online manufacturing platforms that give access to quality producers globally, where one simply uploads a design file and receives an instant, competitive quote and, perhaps, even feedback on the suitability of their design. Agile is a trendy expression in digital change however it is similarly as significant in manufacturing – it takes into consideration the inventive and fast reaction.

The benefits of 3D printed tooling parts

Additive manufacturing technology has provided cost and efficiency savings to a range of industrial customers over the past.

Australian metal additive manufacturing service provider Amaero signed an agreement with an automotive manufacturer to jointly develop 3D printed tooling in April 2020. The company will use its 3D printers to decrease the risk of manufacturing defects, by adding conformal cooling channels to the design.

UK-based tool manufacturer Guhring UK introduced two additive manufacturing systems from the US-based composite and metal 3D printer provider Markforged into its custom cutting tool line in February 2020. The 3D printers have allowed the company to manufacture sample parts, replacement parts and prototypes in carbon fiber.



Both online and local models have their place in additive manufacturing, much the same as an AM and conventional procedures have their place in the business. 3D printing won’t supplant conventional strategies, for example, machining (milling, drilling etc) and forming (casting, moulding etc) in a designing situation, yet they should work close by one another and be utilized by their advantages of cost and time.


AM is a major piece of Industry 4.0, which is going on this moment, so these are energizing occasions for designers and engineers!