Sensors, Vision

Machine vision and AI enhance 3-D printing

Adding machine vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to 3-D printing allows industrial printers to produce products that have never been printed before.
By AIA November 17, 2019
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media

Adding machine vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to 3-D printing gives the device the eyes and brains it was missing. Thanks to this welcome addition, industrial printers will be able to produce products that have never been printed before.

Commercially available printers usually only offer high speed, high precision, or high-quality materials. 3-D printing can rarely deliver all three. This makes it hard to use 3-D printing as a viable manufacturing tool. 3-D printing is now mostly used for prototyping and low-volume production of specialized parts.

3-D printing with AI Is beneficial to manufacturers and consumers

The addition of AI and machine vision to 3-D printing changes this paradigm. Vision systems can be used to comprehensively scan each layer of an object as it’s being printed to correct errors in real-time. Machine learning uses that information to predict the behavior of materials and offer more accurate final products.

Developers of the technology claim to be able to print more flexible materials more accurately than others. The machine can also precisely print materials around objects, such as computer chips and other electronic components. When finished, the machine keeps a digital replica that can be used for quality assurance.

The advantages of 3-D printing are enormous but many manufacturers remain reluctant to adopt it. Until the addition of machine learning and AI, 3-D printing couldn’t compete with other manufacturing methods. These new advancements have the potential to transform the business. Anyone will be able to go from an idea to a usable product fast. New business opportunities are available to everyone.

Many of the toughest materials to print today are the most commonly used. Rubber-like materials such as silicone and high-temperature materials such as epoxy, which are often used for insulating electronics and in consumer, health, and industrial products, are hard to create on a 3-D printer. They are plagued with uneven distribution, clogging, and poor edges.

Companies that sell medical devices, consumer products, and automotive components have a lot to gain by using 3-D printing with machine vision and AI. 3D printing developers hope to see their 3-D printed wares in a wide range of markets from dental aligners to sleep apnea masks to industrial tooling.

This article originally appeared in Vision Online. AIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


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