The MX3D robot arm has been designed by Altair engineers, 3D printed and serves as a spare part for an ABB robot. The large-scale optimised part was first presented to the public back in November 2019, just before its installation. After a pause in the project due to the crown crisis, the installation has now been successfully completed.
A 3D printed robotic arm by Dutch company MX3D in 2019 was used to upgrade and adapt an ABB robotic arm. The intricate organic structures can be created vertically thanks to a unique 3D printing method called wire arc additive manufacturing. For each geometric feature, intelligent algorithms selected the best printing method and direction of the tool path. In this case, 3D printing is used to adapt generative designs, saving time and money by increasing production and decreasing material waste, which is crucial for specialised robotic applications.
The MX3D and Altair teams have collaborated to create a new arm. To speed up additive manufacturing, print path planning was improved using Altair’s algorithms. The connecting surfaces were finalised on a three-axis milling machine after a four-day printing period. The component is now mounted on an industrial robot.
The Robot Arm project now covers the entire process, starting with disassembly, reverse engineering, optimisation, printing, finishing and concluding with the assembly and use of the robot. The aim of the collaborative project is to enable the production of spare components that can be modified. This makes it possible to quickly and automatically produce large-scale parts, which would often require complex tooling and manufacturing in another country, resulting in long delivery times and limited customisation possibilities.
The promise of optimisation is demonstrated by the reduction of the weight of the robotic arm by 50%, and the use of near-net-shape metal printing alongside conventional machining shows the speed and adaptability of wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) in heavy industry. The ability to create replacement parts in-house rather than contracting an external casting and milling company is now within the reach of distributors and equipment manufacturers.

By fusing printing and machining, MX3D’s technology has demonstrated its ability to optimise part production and performance.
Creating a framework for the creation of specialised robotic spare parts is the overall goal of the joint project.

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