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Additive Manufacturing of Robot Components for a Capstone Senior Design Experience

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Capstone Design Projects

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.157.1 - 26.157.15



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Paper Authors


Wesley B. Williams P.E. University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Williams is an assistant professor in the department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management, where he teaches courses in the areas of instrumentation and controls, technical programming, and mechanical design. He is active in the area of robotics, serving for three years as a faculty mentor for the UNC Charlotte Astrobotics team competing in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

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Eric J. Schaus Georgia Institute of Technology

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Graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Currently attending graduate school at Georgia Institute of Technology perusing a PhD in Aerospace Engineering.

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Additive Manufacturing of Robot Components for a Capstone Senior Design ExperienceThe University of X competed in the 5th Annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition with arobot that included several additively manufactured (AM) parts. The team used a design-build-test approach throughout their project and was drawn to additive manufacturing (or rapidprototyping) to help them to reduce the cycle time on each iteration of the design-build-testprocess. Two different technologies, fused deposition modeling (FDM) and film transferimaging (FTI), were used to additively manufacture these parts, using a Stratasys Dimension and3D Systems VFlash respectively. These technologies provided some significant advantages inproducing complex parts for the robot, but they did come with some limitations as well. Severalstudents started the project with the mainstream notion that additive manufacturing allowedeffortless printing of any part you desired from a CAD file. Through both successes and failures,they came to realize both the limitations and appropriate application of both the FDM and FTIprocess and their associated materials.The AM parts that ultimately made it on to the robot included replacement aperture covers for aphotomultiplier tube (PMT), a custom gimbal used to orient the PMT, a latch used to secure adeployed arm, enclosures to protect sensors mounted on the robot exterior, and customenclosures for the laser beacon system used for navigation. Notable disappointments for the AMparts included issues with parts warping, inappropriate application of sparse internal structures,and restrictions related to discrete layer thicknesses. These setbacks were ultimately resolved byeither redesigning the parts, additional post processing, or shifting to alternative manufacturingapproaches. The key success for the AM parts included the desired reduction in cycle time,effective matching of existing complex geometry, efficient mass reduction, and increasedproductivity by allowing students to move on to other tasks while parts were being printed.Once final embodiments were settled on for the various AM parts, they performed their intendedfunctions without incident throughout the testing and competition at Kennedy Space Center.

Williams, W. B., & Schaus, E. J. (2015, June), Additive Manufacturing of Robot Components for a Capstone Senior Design Experience Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23496

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