Robotech Oy is a company founded three years ago that creates turnkey solutions for its customers using robotics and automation. Robotech has gained significant cost savings, prompt experimentation and more efficient production with 3D printing. The benefits of 3D printing for their customers are evident in faster robots that lower manufacturing costs and time.
The collaboration between 3D Formtech and Robotech dates back to before Robotech was founded in 2017, as the company’s managing director and founding member, Pasi Kapiainen, has years of experience in 3D printing. “Our collaboration is excellent which will definitely continue. Together, we make better machines,” Kapiainen says.
BENEFITS OF 3D PRINTING
The challenge in the world of robotics is the weight of the tool or gripper the robot carries. It can reduce the robot’s payload. According to Kapiainen, optimising the mass of the gripper is key. “The first thing we noticed was that by printing plastic we were able to create interesting and lighter structures,” says Kapiainen about his first experiments with 3D printing. “Very quickly we realised that 3D printing can replace other parts, as well. Today, the structures we make are so complex that air can pass through them and, in some cases, electrical wires. We can also integrate electrical connectors in the structures,” he explains. 3D printing allows you to replace and combine several different components into one printable assembly.
“In the past, similar integrations were done in different ways, assembling different components: sometimes a component was machined from plastic, sometimes a frame structure was made from aluminium, and parts were screwed together. Then the hoses and cables were added,” Kapiainen says. He goes on to explain, “With the old technology, there may have been 40 components in the gripper. Nowadays, 3D printing can make a similar assembly with just ten components.” Lighter and more intricate 3D prints also have a significant impact on the performance and efficiency of the finished robot. “With the old technology, the gripper weighed a kilogram. It now weighs a third of that with 3D printing. This has a significant effect on the how the robot works – it can work faster and/or handle heavier products because the components don’t slow it down,” he explains.
Kapiainen believes 3D printing offers unlimited possibilities. The speed and cost-effectiveness of printing, which also allow for prompt experimentation and continuous improvement, are of particular importance to Robotech. At 3D Formtech, we can have a new printout for a customer as quickly as within one day. With the old technology, you had to wait for a new component for several weeks. 3D printing also allows more options in designing. “For example, we can emboss the company logo on different components. This makes it visible to the customer, for example, on the side of a line or in a machine component,” Kapiainen says.
COLLABORATING WITH 3D FORMTECH
Kapiainen describes 3D Formtech as an excellent, reliable partner. Speed, precision and quality in 3D printing are of particular importance to Robotech. 3D Formtech offers all three. “For us, the prints’ reproduction accuracy is important, meaning the components’ dimensions are to scale. Security of supply and keeping to schedules are also important. These are the reasons why we’re satisfied with 3D Formtech,” Kapiainen sums up.
Although 3D printing has significantly saved costs, the most important factor in choosing a partner was not the money. Kapiainen explains, “The fact that we can be sure the job gets done is definitely the most important thing. 3D Formtech is quite incredible at times – sometimes when we’ve been in a hurry and noticed a component was missing, we’ve sent a print file to 3D Formtech, and they’ve stopped all other work to get the package to us. They get the job done, and I appreciate this immensely.”
Kapiainen says that 3D Formtech’s equipment is high-quality, and the materials are durable, which make using 3D printing versatile. Design is important for Robotech, which is evident in the rounding off of the printed components, for example. According to Kapiainen, such fine-tuning with the old technology would have cost a lot more, which is why it would have had to be left out altogether. Well-planned designing in 3D printing could actually lower costs because less raw material is used. The production possibilities in 3D printing are much more diverse. “Any optimisation, be it in terms of weight, appearance or usability, is one of the reasons we like using 3D printing,” Kapiainen sums up.