ORNL & Transcend Robotics to Leverage 3D Printing for Mobile Robots
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 29, 2016 |
ORNL and Transcend Robotics have signed an agreement to 3D print parts for mobile robots.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has decided throw its weight behind 3D printing with full force. After first lending expertise to the construction of the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system from CINCINNATI Incorporated, the government lab has since announced its involvement in several different projects. The most recent will see ORNL work with a company called Transcend Robotics to use 3D printing for the development of mobile robots.

The ARTI platform from Transcend Robotics enables robots to easily climb over objects. (Image courtesy of Transcend Robotics.)
The ARTI platform from Transcend Robotics enables robots to easily climb over objects. (Image courtesy of Transcend Robotics.)

Transcend Robotics has already patented a technology dubbed Articulated Traction Control (ARTI), which allows mobile robots to easily climb over obstacles through a series smart design mechanisms. Self-positioning treads and joints that provide stability to the ARTI system give the robot the ability to simply roll over objects and climb up stairs. With the addition of cameras and LIDAR, the platform can collect data, as well.

ORNL has signed a cooperative research and development agreement to demonstrate the potential of 3D printing to create parts for mobile robots, as well as for tooling to create parts. The overall goal is to improve the quality of various robotic platforms while also lowering the cost for the adoption of mobile robots. 

Representatives from Transcend Robotics and ORNL provided little elucidation on the nature of the project. Phil Walker, CEO and cofounder of Transcend Robotics, stated, "We are excited to work with the leading experts at ORNL to leverage advanced additive manufacturing to lower the cost of critical ARTI components. This enables applications of mobile robotics across more industries while keeping production in the United States."

Lonnie Love, Group Leader of Manufacturing Systems Research at ORNL, only added, "This research fits squarely with ORNL's goal of delivering transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security."

With many of the details for this project under wraps, then, it’s difficult to determine exactly what will result from the partnership. From the language of the announcement, it sounds as though the partners are working on making the ARTI platform 3D printable in order to open access to the technology. 

Personally, I hope that, in addition to 3D printing parts, ORNL considers hitching a 3D printing extruder to an ARTI robot to create a mobile 3D printing platform. It wouldn’t be the first time—a team from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) has built its own army of Minibuilders that 3D-printed a concrete structure in Spain.

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