Through combining Augmented and Virtual Reality platforms with 3D printing manufacturers are helping their employees more intuitively model a product and produce it en masse with the assistance of automated printing software. The same technology could also reduce barriers of entry for new manufacturing companies as well individuals who’d like to design and print their own products at home.
Some initial steps have already been taken to streamline bulk printing for organizations specializing in custom 3D printed products. Makelab, for example has come to an agreement with automation software developer AMFG who provides some options for automatic workflow in the additive manufacturing industry.
Currently, Makelab technical experts can design a product, 3D print the prototype, test its structural integrity and eventually produce a final version. however they have not yet achieved flexible enough manufacturing speeds required to scale the business up.
In order to that, automated printing of products is important so that they can keep up with their eclectic client base which includes companies ranging from.
- graphics processing unit designer NVIDIA to
- crochet artist London Kaye,
- online novelty story The Unemployed Philosophers Guild,
- and architectural company Aardvarchitecture.
Christina Perla, Makelab co-founder said that “as we scale our business, we’re always looking for innovative ways to solve key issues like keeping track of all our machines, effectively packing builds and ultimately, optimizing our workflow for maximum efficiency. AMFG answered all of these questions and more, so we can provide a faster, more efficient service for our customers.”
The best thing about Automating this type of 3D printing code-click-print process is that it will allow Makelab to sustain it’s production speed in response to high demand, which could otherwise create delays due to consistent requirements for human intervention.
AMFG’s software manages a myriad of previously human domains including
- quoting price for production
- product management
- scheduling of production jobs
- parts tracking
- post-processing services
- and quality assurance
This year AMFG launched their brand new Artificial Intelligence platform. Even more recently they devued the “Holistic Build Analysis” which aids the company in estimating production costs.
AMFG’s business development manager, Felix Doerr “our partnership with Makelab marks AMFG’s further expansion into the US market.”
If you could use this type of automated 3D printing with Augmented (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) assisted 3D product modelling then not only would you streamline the production process but also design and prototyping.
Companies like RoMA for example combine an AR headset, with a rotating platform and robotic 3D printing arm to simultaneously design and print a skeletal prototype. On the platform two controllers connected to an AR headset allow the user to create and adjust a digital model in real time while on the other side of the platform a robotic arm begins to extrude parts of the design overtop of the AR model – adjusting dynamically to the position of your hands.
Another group is testing the feasibility of AR and 3D printing by re-purposing a azus zeniphone smartphone for AR applications. By activating the devices camera users can model new parts for a real physical object – touching the tablets screen can insert and edit 3 dimensional graphics over top of the solid surface in front of you. They can also use this interface to convert 2 dimensional blueprints in to 3D objects. After the the editing is complete an ultimaker 3D printer begins to extrude filament in the shape of the digital mold you created.
Vives MakeVR allows you to become entirely immersed in a 360 degree virtual workshop. Dawn the Vive headset and use your hands to arrange an array of different shapes and figures together, eventually creating your own art piece. When you’re ready the virtual design can be printed to create an accurate representation of your work in colorful plastic. MakeVR is characterized by its user friendly interface and shallow learning curve.
But how about the more serious profitable aspects of industry?
Well it turns out many companies are beginning to take notice of mixed reality systems as a valuable asset for improving the more intuitive prototyping stage of product design. Automotive manufacturing companies such as General Motors and Ford and currently using VR to design vehicles, simulate tolerances and test safety features.
“VR has enabled us to shorten the vehicle development process in many ways,” says Joe Guzman, engineering group manager, Vehicle Assembly Structure and Virtual Reality Center at General Motors. “It offers the ability to very early in the development process make decisions in an accurately represented manner in a life-like representation of the vehicle that in many years past would have required a physical property,” he says.
Furthermore, continuing on the advent of industry 4.0 – These same companies are utilizing 3D printing to produce parts for those very same designs they prototype in VR. In particular, General Motors is 3D printing parts to make their Electric vehicles more efficient whereas Ford is currently testing large scale 3D printing with light weight and personalization in mind.
Even more advanced aerospace and weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin have began 3D printing giant titanium space parts for use in assembling spacecraft aided by Augmented Reality. Once you can overlay instructions onto parts of the vehicle, technicians no longer have to go back and forth between different paper models – decreasing the learning curve from hours to minutes.
This “Industry 4.0” model is much more prolific and serious then most people may think. Once the hardware becomes more user friendly and less expensive you could see a swathe of ordinary people designing products and printing them from home. This could lead to an industrial renaissance with wide ranging implications for economics, national policy and global trade.