The Centre for Fine Print Research is using a six-axis robotic arm for artistic 3D printing

The Center for Fine Print Research uses a six-axis Mitsubishi Electric MELFA RV-Series capable of flexible 3D printing (Courtesy University of the West of England)

The University of the West of England’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is experimenting with a six-axis Mitsubishi Electric MELFA RV-Series to create 3D printed forms that move beyond simple CAD models and slicing algorithms.

Unlike conventional 3D printers which deposit material according to rigid algorithms, the six-axis Mitsubishi robotic arm is geared for flexible use. The tool’s flexibility largely derives from its approximately 36-inch range of movement, expansion capabilities, and use of pneumatics.

As reported by 3D Printing Industry the CFPR is able to surpass the standard rigidity of 3D printing by connecting “an articulated arm industrial robot to a print generation system,” which is “operated by printer paths through proprietary software developed by CFPR.” In effect, the team is able to use the robotic arm in real-time control, allowing for the constant manipulation of physical properties. Through constant input, the artist is capable of pushing the 3D printed material to its structural limits, with sweeping curves, ornate patterns and near translucency.

In a statement, the Centre for Fine Print Research’s Paul O’Dowd compares additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, to the fabrication of thermoplastics and ceramics with the material deposition being “manipulated whilst it is hot and pulled into hairs, or fine gauss, or woven.”