Since 1959 when the first industrial robot was installed at a GM diecasting plant in Trenton, New Jersey there has been a never ending race to improve the productivity of these robots through the advancement of end of arm tool design. Couple this with the advent of 3D printers in the mid 2000’s that were able to produce high quality, strong, and cost effective part, and the end result has been the opening of a whole new frontier of design possibilities for 3D printed end of arm tooling for industrial robots.
At Forerunner 3D Printing we are uniquely positioned to leverage 3D printing for our clients end of arm tooling needs:
3D printed end of arm tooling can be as simple or complex as needed, which gives Designers the freedom to create tooling solely for its specific function. For example, 3D printed end of arm tooling can have integrated vacuum channels, assemblies can be consolidated down into a single part, or organic shapes that conform to the object being manipulated by the robot. This design flexibility provides a unique opportunity to optimize robot performance and with a 3D printed EOAT design complexity doesn’t increase cost.
Regardless of if you are just looking for someone to print the custom grippers or part nests deigned by your engineering team or if you need a company to quote the design, 3D Printing, Machining, and build of your end of arm tool, Forerunner 3D Printing is here to help with your 3D Printed end effector project today!
A customer had an issue with their end of arm tool dropping parts during a high speed vertical move as the EOAT was being removed from the injection mold press. We design and built a set of drop in replacement TPU rubber pads printed in Lubrizol M95A material for the existing gripper fingers on the EOAT and added an aggressive texture to them in order to help better grip the part.
The main question about these pads was how long would the texture last before it was worn away? 20,000 cycles ended up being the magic number. After the initial test run the customer bought 10 sets of these pads at a total cost of $400. Needless to say they were fine replacing them every 20,000 cycles due to the elimination of the dropped parts issue completely!
With the advent of 3D printable TPU rubber a whole new world of possibilities has been opened up to Machine builders. It is now possible to manufacture one off suction cups with a custom profile that allows the cup to fit into areas and pick up on part surfaces that would not be possible with a normal commodity suction cup. At F3DP we have done extensive testing to validate that 3D printed suction cups will hold up to long term use and will remain vacuum tight.
PA-12 Nylon is an engineering grade thermoplastic that produces high-density parts with extreme dimensional accuracy and fine detail for functional 3D Printed EOAT applications. When PA-12 Multi Jet Fusion Materials are used in conjunction with the MJF process it produces more consistent mechanical properties in each direction of the printed parts geometry—far more so than other powder-based printers—a factor that’s especially desirable with multi-faceted, complex designs where strength and reliability is required everywhere throughout the part. The heat deflection temperatures shown in the table below gives a good indication of the temperatures that these parts can withstand, keeping in mind that these values are measured when the entire plastic sample is saturated at the tested temperature. Tensile strength and elongation values help quantify that the material is both strong and to some degree flexible, these are beneficial properties for gripper fingers that have to withstand many cycles and still retain their precision. Strength and flexibility are assets that can be tuned through design, this becomes appropriate when creating rigid nests or fixtures that have to be precise and stable to hold parts in the exact orientation desired. PA-12 Multi Jet Fusion Materials also have excellent chemical resistance to oils, greases, aliphatic hydrocarbons and alkalies.
TPU Rubber is a multi-purpose material for application using the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing system. 3D printed TPU parts produced with this material offer a balanced property profile with good flexibility, shock absorption and the possibility to print very fine structures with a high level of detail. In addition, the material is easy to print, and has good UV and hydrolysis resistance. This material is only available for 3D printing on the HP Multi Jet Fusion printer.
If you are going to be designing your own 3D printed end of arm tooling details, please take a look at our guide on how to best design parts for manufacturing using the HP multi jet fusion process. We are always happy to look over customers designs and offer ideas and feedback as well as evaluate them for production on a 3D Printer.
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