The RoboDawgs CNC group is creating amazing things with our new 3D printer!
3D printing is the most disruptive technology ever to impact the production of physical products. It will result in dramatic changes in the world within 10 years. Think of how the internet impacted the assembly of information – that’s what 3D printing is doing for the assembly of physical products. It will impact the job opportunities for our students, as this technology essentially cuts out the “manufacturing middleman” between the engineer and the marketplace.
Our RoboDawg CNC group, under the direction of Tom Chicklon, had already surpassed our expectations, going so far as to make parts for a NASA launch last summer. We gave this group responsibility for figuring out what we might do with 3D printing.
Our printer arrived in October, and we had the students set it up. One of our team captains runs a weekly training every Wednesday, teaching the CNC group about 3D CAD – and we added training on the software for the 3D printer to this weekly session. Our first direction to this student-managed group was to look for ways to reduce the weight of our FRC robots by designing and printing parts on the 3D printer. Above is a photo of their work from week 1. The silver parts in the photo are standard aluminum parts of the type we use on every FRC robot we build. The colored parts are 3D printed replacements for those aluminum parts. The students are working on testing the durability of these parts and have modified the designs so that the ABS plastic parts they are printing meet the quality standards for use on our robots.
The design, testing, and redesign of these parts has been a great exercise in materials science for our students. They currently estimate that by designing and printing their own custom 3D parts, they can reduce the weight of a standard FRC robot (120 pound) by more than eight pounds – without sacrificing strength or performance.
We’ve been amazed what happens when you take a talented and motivated group of kids, train them, give them a tool, set some boundaries – and then get out of their way.