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Are 3D Printers Considered Robots?

It’s still hard to believe that 3D printers exist. A few years ago, they were stuff for science fiction movies, just like robots. That raises the question: are 3D printers considered robots? 

3D printers fit the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) definition of industrial robots. They are reprogrammable, multipurpose, and move through an axis. They also fit robotic mechanical structures, e.g., Cartesian, SCARA, and Parallel/Delta printers. 

Read on to discover why your 3D printer can be categorized as a robot. 

What Makes 3D Printers Robots

According to the International Federation of Robotics, ISO 8373 defines industrial robots as: 

“Automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator, programmable in three or more axes, which can be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.” 

3D printers qualify as industrial robots mainly because they meet the following key terms:

Reprogrammable

3D printers are reprogrammable, meaning you can change their functions and motions. 

It’s possible to modify the data on the tag attached to the object. You can do this remotely, even if the tag is presently moving. 

Your other option for programming your 3D printer is through Marlin since your device has a control board. 

Multipurpose

3D printers are multipurpose because you can alter their design to use them for another activity. Some current models offer the following features, apart from 3D printing:

Laser Engraving and Cutting

Laser cutting is when a machine creates an object by directing a laser beam a certain way. Engraving does the same thing, albeit using reduced laser power. 3D printers can use other materials, such as wood or soft metals, with this process. 

Vinyl Cutting

This process uses a drag knife or craft cutter to cut out letters or shapes. A 3D printer can craft thin adhesive plastics such as stickers thanks to adjustable-depth cutting. 

You can create your design through a program such as Adobe and Corel.

Drawing 

A 3D printer with a drawing feature has an instrument attached to the tool head that lets you create two-dimensional drawings on paper and other flat surfaces. 

The process is highly similar to the regular 3D printing process. This YouTube video shows how that works: 

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Milling

3D printers with CNC milling can remove material through rotary cutters. These parts can be controlled by machining stations/centers. 

Like drilling or cutting, CNC is a type of subtractive manufacturing. As the name suggests, it’s the process of removing material from a solid block to form an object.

Subtractive manufacturing is the opposite of 3D printing, which observes additive manufacturing. It generates an object by forming layers with the help of a computer program. 

Axis

Axis is defined as the motion of the 3D printer (rotary or linear.) 

There are three coordinates—X, Y, and Z. Perpendicular to the other two, and each axis provides information about a particular direction. 

The 3D printer’s lateral movement is made possible by its X and Y-axis. Its vertical motion, on the other hand, corresponds to its Z-axis. 

In a nutshell, the X and Y movements deposit the layers. The Z movement, in the meantime, moves the layers at a set height. 

3D Printers Classified According to Mechanical Structure

Apart from meeting the features mentioned above, 3D printers are classified as robots due to their mechanical structure. 

There are five types of industrial robotics, with three categories alluding to 3D printers:

Cartesian Robot/Printer

Cartesian robots are machines with three prismatic jointed arms. As mentioned above, they also have axes corresponding to the Cartesian coordinate system. 

This type of robot is known as the Cartesian 3D printer, which takes the name from the system and its inventor, mathematician Rene Descarte. 

These unique 3D printers come with electrical motors that move on each axis. They also come with a rectangular build space and a moving square print bed. 

One type of Cartesian printer is the Core XY printer. It has two motors that drive its X and Y movements. The Z movement, which follows a downward direction, is created by the build plate.

The Core XY printer also comes with a long timing belt built within a dynamic mechanical system. 

Given these features, Core XY printers can produce high-quality prints at faster speeds. They don’t suffer from jerk settings, inaccurate depositions, and print failures, which are common with the heavier Cartesian printer. 

Parallel/Delta Robot Printer

The parallel or delta robot is a machine with concurrent prismatic/rotary joints.

As such, it has a hot end connected to three moving arms. These arms, on the other hand, are affixed to vertical rails. 

This printer comes with a stationary circular build plate as well. 

The name is derived from the fact that the extruder is suspended in a way that it forms a triangular arrangement. 

Compared to the Cartesian printer, it doesn’t correspond to any axis. Instead, the hot end movement is done simultaneously by all three arms. 

Given this unique design, the delta printer is ideal for doing taller 3D projects. It’s also recommended for circular prints, mainly because of its immovable circular build plate. 

Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA) Printer

A SCARA printer is a type of robot that uses two parallel rotary joints for plane compliance. 

In other words, it comes with robotic arms that perform the X-Y movement. These arms are powered by two motors that move and position themselves at the hot end of the plane. On the other hand, the Z movement is made possible by the built plate. 

SCARA printers tend to be faster than other 3D printer types. That said, their speed of up to 300 m/s doesn’t always make high-quality prints. The key is to bring the rate down to 120 m/s for a ‘better’ output. 

Final Thoughts

3D printers are indeed robots. They’re multipurpose, reprogrammable machines that move on a particular axis. 

Additionally, various 3D printers come with mechanical systems that are innate to robots. Be it a Cartesian, SCARA, or Delta printer, and one thing’s for sure: you have a reliable robot on your hands.