Should you 3D print with a robot arm?

September 14, 2023
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What is 3D Printing with robotics?

Simply put, 3D Printing with a robotic arm, often called "robotic additive manufacturing", is the combination of two advanced technologies. Instead of a stationary 3D printer, there is a robotic arm with a filament extruder attached. In this case, the arm doesn't just tend to a 3D printer, it is the printer.

In the robotics industry, only a handful have ventured into this unique meeting of robot production and additive manufacturing. The additive manufacturing process is dynamic and eases the creation of objects on a large scale and the addition of a robotic arm allows the machine to move in ways that human beings and stationary printers may find challenging.

This is reshaping traditional manufacturing processes, providing more freedom and flexibility. But, it's not just about adding layers of material, it's about doing so with the skill and adaptability of robotics.

How does it work?

Here's a simpler breakdown of how you can combine AI-enabled robots with 3D Printing and the result of doing so:

  1. Design input: Just like your typical 3D Printing, it starts with a digital design. This design is fed into the system which can then guide the robotic arm's movements.
  2. Robotic movement: Unlike stationary 3D printers, robotic arms have the flexibility to move in multiple directions. This means they can create complex designs from various angles. This can make large-scale projects that much easier.
  3. Filament extrusion: As the robotic arm moves, it presses out material layer by layer. The precision of these robots ensures each layer aligns perfectly with the last one.
  4. Adaptable printing: The great thing about using robotic arms for 3D Printing is their adaptability. They can move around objects, reach different heights, and adjust their printing strategy on the fly.
  5. Completion: Once the design is fully printed, the robotic arm retracts, leaving behind a perfectly crafted object, which could either be a simple prototype or a large structure.

What applications does it work well for and not so well for?

Works well for:

  • Building robots with complex geometries: The flexibility of robotic arms in 3D Printing eases the creation of intricate designs.
  • Warehouse robots: Because of the demand for customization in warehouses, 3D Printing with robotic arms can make custom parts for specific tasks.
  • Large-scale projects: The extended reach and versatility of robotic arms make them perfect for large-scale 3D Printing tasks, like constructing components or entire structures.
  • Augmenting robots: Enhancing or modifying existing robots, especially in industries like underwater exploration, becomes more possible with this technology.

Doesn't work so well for:

  • Soft robots: 3D Printing can handle a wide range of materials, but creating the soft, flexible structures required for soft robots can be challenging, although doing so isn't impossible.
  • Underwater robots: The requirements for underwater functionality, like pressure resistance and waterproofing, might not always suit the capabilities of 3D-printed parts.
  • High-precision medical applications: Although robotic arms are very accurate, the medical field often demands an even higher level of accuracy than what current 3D printing can consistently provide.

What are the benefits of using a robot arm for 3D Printing?

  • More flexibility: Robotic arms, especially Five- or Six-Axis ones with their multi-directional movement, offer lots of flexibility. They can reach angles and spaces that humans and stationary printers usually can't, making 3D Printing of complex structures a breeze.
  • Large-scale production: The extended reach of robotic arms makes them ideal for large-scale 3D Printing tasks.
  • Quick prototyping: If you need a prototype fast, robotic arms can speed up the 3D Printing process, allowing businesses to test and change designs swiftly.
  • Cost-efficiency: Over time, using a robotic arm can be more cost-effective. It can handle multiple tasks, which then reduces the need for multiple machines.
  • Space optimization: Unlike traditional 3D printers that might occupy significant space, a robotic arm with a filament attached can be very helpful if you don't have much space to work with.

What industries are adopting 3D Printing with a robot arm?

Thanks to robotic additive manufacturing, we're pretty much in a new industrial revolution. Here's a look at various industries that are 3D Printing with a robot arm.

Construction industry

Construction is one of the leading industries when it comes to this. With robotic arms, the creation of intricate architectural designs and large structures has been made much easier.

Mechanical engineering

In this industry, the adaptability and precision of robotic arms make them a huge asset. They help in quick prototyping, testing mechanical components, and producing complex parts.


From prosthetics to surgical tools, the healthcare sector is exploring the potential of 3D Printing using robotic arms for customized solutions, although careful human supervision is still required in this sector.


Car manufacturers are using this technology for parts production, ensuring quicker turnarounds and tailored designs.

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How to implement a 3D Printing robot

Implementing a 3D Printing robot begins with finding a robotics company that you trust. Standard Bots, for example, has established itself as a reliable name in the industry and even has a guide on choosing the right robotics for your factory. Their RO1 Six-Axis robot is particularly suitable for 3D Printing applications, offering some of the best precision and adaptability.

Once you've chosen your robot, familiarize yourself with its operational needs and software compatibility. Then, make sure you have the right space and infrastructure to accommodate the robot. Training is crucial; even if a robot has a no-code interface, understanding its capabilities ensures you get the most out of it.

This means collaborating closely with the company's support team for installation and initial runs. You'll also need to make regular maintenance checks and software updates to keep your robot in top shape.


What shouldn't be 3D printed?

Although 3D Printing offers a lot of possibilities, it's not ideal when it comes to producing items that require high heat resistance, extreme durability, or intricate internal mechanisms. If you're unsure, always consider material properties and the intended use of the final product.

Is a 3D printer worth it for robotics?

Definitely. 3D printers can be a cost-effective way to create custom parts, enhance design versatility, and enable quick prototyping. It could be a real game-changer for small manufacturing businesses.

How long does a 3D Printing robotic arm last?

3D Printing robotic arms are usually expected to have a lifespan of around eight years. Although your typical Industrial robots can last for up to 20 years, the 3D Printing attachments may not have the same longevity. Technological advancements may also make some models obsolete over time, so bear this in mind when getting one.

Is there a limit to the area that can be printed with a robotic arm?

Yes, a robotic arm's printable area comes down to its reach, which is usually around 4.9 feet (1.5 meters). Some arms on rails extend this range, but the practical reach naturally limits the printing zone. Always consider the arm's specifications when planning prints.

Final thoughts

Once you really get into robotic additive manufacturing you'll be able to see how it is changing manufacturing and reshaping industries. With robotic arms, the possibilities go beyond previous boundaries, simplifying the production of intricate designs, large-scale projects, and rapid prototyping. As industries evolve, understanding and integrating this technology becomes crucial.

Trustworthy partners like Standard Bots pave the way, ensuring businesses harness the full potential of this innovation.

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