I’m sure that just about everyone is familiar with the company iRobot due to the proliferation of their Roomba robotic vacuums. Recently the company filed a patent for a product it calls the “Robotic Fabricator”.
According to the patent documents, the “Robotic Fabricator” is an autonomous part fabrication machine that can handle all aspects of manufacturing a product. This all-in-one package includes: 3D printing, CNC milling, multi-component assembly and finishing.
iRobot describes how their Robotic Fabricator would work in their patent:
“The new systems and methods include a fabrication machine/method that fuses additive and subtractive manufacturing with in-situ component placement to provide completely autonomous all-in-one product manufacturing.
Product fabrication is centered around a six-axis industrial robotic manipulator (primary manipulator) that handles the product from seed component to mature product.”
The description continues, “The system may include one or more sensors that can measure parameters and characteristics of the product being manufactured while the process is taking place. For example, the system can include a precision visual scanning device that will generate precise measurements of the product being fabricated. Information collected by the sensor may be used by the fabrication machine to adjust subsequent steps in the manufacturing process.”
The basic idea behind the printer is the same one that initially touched off the industrial revolution. Human labor costs a ton, and therefore, the price of products could be reduced if a machine could take over the job.
iRobot’s Robotic Fabricator seems to be the next step in the evolution of completely automated product manufacturing. Who knows, maybe one day machines based on this concept will be able to take a designer’s 3d model and turn the initial idea into an even more sophisticated and advanced product.
While that wild future may be a ways off, don’t discount the possibility. I mean a vacuum cleaner company just patented an autonomous robotic fabricator.
Images Courtesy of iRobot via 3ders