Plastic, rubber, titanium, aluminum, glass, cement, all of these and many more materials can by 3D printed. You have at least 30 different types of 3D printing from FDM, SLA, CLIP, SLS, the list goes on and on. You can download FREE things to print! You can have it outsourced. But what most will not tell you: it takes hours, sometimes days, to print a part. Once printed that part has to be post-processed. Some call it “body shopping”. Basically you sand, you dissolve, you fill, you sand, you prime, you sand, you prime, etc. etc. If you bid out a simple part for a good quality print you will see the cost of printing…that said…we have many 3D printers in this studio! Of course it has its place, and sometimes they are running non-stop for days!
The thing is, so are our CNC mills and lathes at the same time. So are our band saws, belt sanders, Foredoms (rotary tools), vac forming tables, and more.
The point is this: we use whatever process is most efficient to produce the best quality part.
We design outer robot shell shapes and suit parts, those scream for 3D printing and composite work. Some organic sculpts from zbrush are perfect for 3D printing. But why would you spend hours, maybe days, 3D printing something you can make on a CNC mill in a few minutes out of a solid, engineering grade aluminum?
This is exactly the approach we took when designing the new Mecha X Robotic Hand.
The frame needs to be strong, have precise holes that will not wear with time, and be stiff enough to be very kinematically stable while having a wide range of motion. What is the best material for this: ALUMINUM! The CNC mill is right here, it takes minutes to program a simple part and another few minutes to have a very strong, reliable part that we can make beautiful through anodization. It will last hundreds of years!
But many people want to modify, “makers” and research companies alike. Typically fingertips need to handle different sensors and different styles of gripping things.
Why not use one of the best methods on the planet to make ANY shape you want to add to the Mecha X Robotic Hand…3D printing!
Most people have at least a cheap FDM printer, why not give you the creative freedom to make perfectly-fitting add-ons to your Mecha X Hand? This hand comes with 3 different designs, all ready to print on your FDM, SLA, SLS, whatever printing method you want. Of course you can design your own fingertips or pads, add sensors, do whatever you like! Now you have a strong, stable robotic hand to add your own touch to it.
This is exactly what team “Night’s Watch”, comprised of computer science engineering students in Tunisia, did when they participated in “The Microsoft Imagine Cup 2016”. They needed a prosthetic hand but could not afford the traditional prosthetic hand investment. 3D printing the entire structure was not a good solution as this hand needed to be strong and lightweight. They also wanted to customize the hand to take inputs from a “Myo” arm band. They succeeded in controlling the Mecha X Hand from an amputee’s forearm and won the competition!
The Mecha X Robotic Hand platform is here. It is ready for you to customize it and make it your own.