If you haven’t already heard… 3D printers are not mere 3D model printers anymore. In future, it may include automation. Automation here means assembling of 3D printed parts straight after 3D printing, right there and then – straight on the 3D printer bed.
It does sound like scene straight out of a sci-fi movie, doesn’t it? Well, not at all. It is becoming a reality. The Functgraph by researchers from Meiji University in Japan is one such example of “factory automation” based on a 3D printer.
Developed by Yuto Kuroki and Keita Watanabe, Functgraph is answer to a scenario of what if there’s no humans to put together a 3D printed project? They are calling it a “personal factory automation.”
The idea is simple enough. Using an app to create what you desire, send it to a 3D printer and it will be able to produce what you need.
Here’s what Functgraph is about and aims to achieve as per a paper [JP] submitted by the researchers:
“We have been developing Functgraph, a system using actuators installed in 3D printers to print, de-support, assemble and actuate parts on a build plate without human intervention. The system has showed a possibility of 3D printer as a function generator. However, there had only been limited examples of applications, so more advanced applications were needed to be considered. In this paper, we made a sandwich manufacturing device as a more advanced application example with Functgraph and considered the effectivity of Functgraph based on this application prototype.”
The paper was submitted last year and was based on a function of putting together a sandwich. However, the machine can do more. It can be taught to fold clothes, assemble a toy vehicle and more.
Of course, even with Functgraph, it has yet to reach the stage of full automation. What it presents is the possibility of a human intervention-free process from design to print to assembly.
With the concept in mind, Functgraph could be perfect machine for deployment in remote places such as a moon base or on Mars where it can be used 3D print and assemble a rover for example.
Images: YouTube (Kuroki Yuto).