A 3D printing farm in Brooklyn needed to scale up to handle large production runs and better compete with injection molding. Until recently, that would have required investing in more 3D printers and additional manpower to run the machines, eliminating many of the cost advantages inherent in 3D printing.
Voodoo Manufacturing invested in a single robot, which it leaves running all night--what's known as "lights-out" manufacturing. It's an elegant display of a model that will soon be commonplace: Through its automation efforts, Voodoo is showing how even small businesses are beginning to run fully-automated, lights-out operations.
It's also an illustration of the calculus business owners are now engaging in when deciding whether to invest in personnel or technology.
The robot Voodoo chose is the UR10 from Universal Robots. It's one of a newer class of collaborative robots, or cobots, which are distinguished from other industrial robots by their relative ease of programming and because they can safely work alongside people thanks to robust safety features.
For now, the UR10 is taking over what's known as "harvesting" on a select bank of 3D printers in Voodoo's Brooklyn headquarters. One of the more cumbersome portions of the 3D printing process, harvesting involves physically loading and unloading plates.