Speaking at the Food & Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF2016) in Shanghai, China, recently, Sheldon Shi, pre sales and application engineer, Stratasys, talked about the benefits of FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology that uses 12 different thermoplastics and can create parts on a layer-by-layer basis.
End of arm tool (EOAT)
It is used to build complex geometries and functional parts, including prototypes, low-volume production pieces and manufacturing aids.
According to Shi, a robot’s end of arm tool (EOAT), is selected based on the operation it will perform, such as gripping or welding. There are standard, off-the-shelf EOATs within the industry but because of the low-volume nature of custom EOATs, these are made from metal.
“FDM is an additive manufacturing (3D printing) process that builds plastic parts layer by layer using data from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) files. With FDM, EOATs can be customized to a specific application,” he added.
He said FDM is an alternative method for producing EOATs which can save time and costs leading to many performance advantages for robots.
“FDM EOATs are lighter than those made with metal, so the robots can move faster or carry larger payloads. Weight reduction also improves motor efficiency and reduces component wear,” said Shi.
“Weight reductions of 90% are possible with two advantages of plastic; they don’t scratch the products they grip, and they dampen impact forces.”
Stratasys J750 3D printer
He said an FDM EOAT can also have components like magnets and sensors embedded during the FDM build process.
“Over time the production process will be very sophisticated. Our strategy is to make sure this technology will permeate into all vertical industries. Protypes used to take several days but now it only takes hours and reduces the cost of the application in such a short time,” he added.
Extoling the virtues of Stratasys J750 3D printer, Shi said the technology is a full-color, multi-material 3D printer which is a game changer for the industry because it can print prototypes, concept models and tooling on one system, which has more than 360,000 color shades, and multiple material ranging from rigid to flexible, opaque and transparent.
Shi said the protptypes from the J750 are so realistic, it made some 3D lollipops to take to an event but decided against it because it would be dangerous to hand out realistic looking products to guests in case they tried to eat them.
The next FBIF event will take place in Shanghai from April 19-21, 2017.