3D Printing In AR Using A Robotic Assistant

The interactive fabrication system combines AR CAD editing with precise robotic control.

In a 2018 research paper entitled RoMA: Interactive Fabrication with Augmented Reality and a Robotic Printer, Huaishu Peng, an information science doctoral student at Cornell University, and his team of researchers based primarily out of MIT and Cornell University, introduced RoMA, a robotic modeling assistant that utilizes an AR CAD editor to provide an interactive fabrication system operated via a VR headset and motion controls.

In the video provided, Huaishu wears an Oculus Rift headset outfitted with an Ovrvision stereo camera as he designs a 3D model of a teapot in a 3D space using a pair of slightly-altered Oculus Touch controllers. As he works on his digital object in augmented reality, a 6DoF robotic 3D printer mounted to a rotating platform mimics the users actions in real-time, creating a real-world replica of the augmented object in the process.

“Instead of designing 3D models on the computer screen, we wanted to give users the opportunity to work in conjunction with the robot,” states Peng. “We call it in-situ fabrication.”

“The cool thing is that the robot can print the users’ design at the same time and place. The designer has this tangible feedback early in the design phase and can make adjustments. The combination of AR and robot allows the designer to use the just-printed part to design their next features. The designer can even directly design and print on an existing physical object. This tightens the process between design and fabrication.”

The printer accompanying AR CAD editor features several unique features to create a modelling experience that’s as intuitive as it is effortless. While within close proximity of the editor, users have the ability to manually control the robotic printing arm and design their object using motion controls. Users are free to grab the platform and rotate their model in either direction. The arm will automatically keep itself at a safe distance away from the user, ensuring a hazard-free experience every time.  Should the user walk away from the machine, the system will engage it version of autopilot mode and complete the project itself based on the digital reference provided.

Some of the examples created during the research phase included a teapot, a two-floor garage model, a cape designed for a toy lion, as well as a new stand for a model jet fighter.

“In the future, we expect a robotic arm can be an intelligent design assistant,” adds Peng. “There is a very promising future for the combination of augmented reality and 3D printing – for example, for making furniture and other fast printed physical items in a real environment.”

While Peng and his teams research has been available since February, as AR technology continues to expand with the release of new products, such as the Magic Leap One Creator Edition and the rumored Microsoft HoloLens 2, RoMA’s form of AR design will only become even more relevant.

RoMA: Interactive Fabrication with Augmented Reality and a Robotic Printer was penned by Huaishu Peng, Cornell information science doctoral student; alongside computer science master’s student Jimmy Briggs, computer science doctoral student Cheng-Yao Wang, information science professor Francois Guimbretiere, University of Central Florida’s Joseph Kider, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Stefanie Mueller, and Hasso Plattner Institute’s Patrick Baudisch.

Image Credit: Huaishu Peng

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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