Combining augmented reality, 3D printing and a robotic arm to prototype in real time

Robotic Modeling Assistant (RoMA) is a joint project out of MIT and Cornell that brings together a variety of different emerging technologies in an attempt to build a better prototyping machine.

Using an augmented reality headset and two controllers, the designer builds a 3D model using a CAD (computer-aided design) program. A robotic arm then goes to work constructing a skeletal model using a simple plastic depositing 3D printer mounted on its hand.

“With RoMA, users can integrate real-world constraints into a design rapidly, allowing them to create well-proportioned tangible artifacts,” according to team leader, Huaishu Peng. “Users can even directly design on and around an existing object, and extending the artifact by in-situ fabrication.”

A video uploaded by Peng shows that the system’s 3D printing is still pretty crude. Being mounted to the end of the arm, versus a more constrained 3D printer bed has a much looser effect on the print.

It is, however, a lot faster than most methods that use the familiar FDM method you’ll find in most desktop 3D printers, and as such could eventually be useful to those looking to essentially sketch things out in a three-dimension space with a bit more control than you’ll get on a 3D printing pen like the 3Doodler.

The arm is also programmed to react in real time to the designer’s actions. “At any time, the designer can touch the handle of the platform and rotate it to bring part of the model forward,” writes Peng. “The robotic arm will park away from the user automatically. If the designer steps away from the printing platform, the robotic fabricator can take the full control of the platform and finish the printing job.”



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