2-metre stainless steel tower 3D-printed by mobile robot on show at IDE Exhibition of Minors

News - 31 January 2018 - Communication

On Thursday 1 February, the Exhibition of Minors will take place at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft. Students from four interdisciplinary minors will demonstrate the innovative solutions they have come up with for various clients. One of these promising solutions is a 2-metre stainless steel tower 3D-printed by a mobile robot.

As a follow-up to last year’s successful 3D-printed bike at MX3D in Amsterdam, a TU Delft student team 3D-printed a metal truss tower over two metres high, using a mobile welding robot. The printing principle used is wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), a process in which layers of stainless steel are deposited on top of each other, to build a three-dimensional object in the same way a 3D printer does, but bigger and with a metal as printing material. The material is deposited by a robotic arm that spot-welds the metal on the baseplate or on the previous layer.

The challenge for the students was to prototype a large structure that is larger than a single robot arm can reach. An arm provided by MX3D was fixed onto a set of tracks that made the arm mobile and increased the work volume drastically. The student team achieved this goal by designing and making a load-bearing arm 2.4 metres high (exact dimensions: 1.1 m x 1.6 m x 2.4 m). The printed stainless steel tower weighs 21 kilograms and can support up to 200 kilograms. It took less than 40 hours to print.

The group members were Aidan Wyber (Industrial Design Engineering), Youri Haak (Industrial Design Engineering), Alexander Hillary (Industrial Design, RMIT University, Australia) and Pierre-Antoine Denarié (Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering), who as part of the minor on advanced prototyping designed, prototyped and constructed the load-bearing arm in just 8 weeks. The multidisciplinary team implemented a process that consisted of a design cycle, an engineering and testing phase, and a design finalisation. The design was generated with a truss-modelling script that the student team developed themselves. The project was a learning experience for all parties involved and can be considered a step towards multidisciplinary collaborations with companies such as MX3D.

Why a truss arm? Pierre-Antoine Denarié, who is doing a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at TU Delft, explained: ‘In addition to the arm being a statement about robotic metal printing not having to be limited by a bounding box, it is also a great example of how metal printing can be used to make durable, problem-specific solutions. The trusses can have nearly any shape or meet any structural requirements without making too many compromises.’

The project was conducted by the 3D Building Field Lab in collaboration with MX3D, under the supervision of Jouke Verlinden (TU Delft) and Gijs van der Velden and Tim Geurtjens (MX3D). It was supported by TU Delft and Amsterdam Institute of Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.

Visit the Exhibition of Minors

The Exhibition of Minors can be seen between 12:00 and 17:00 on Thursday 1 February in the main hall of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (Landbergstraat 15, Delft). 

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