Printing out robot parts

My uncle sent me this video of a company who can make durable tools with movable parts, and just about anything else, using a 3D printer. Does anyone know if this would be a good idea for making robot pieces? Just send them the CAD design and get your piece, colored and everything, within the nest day or so. It seems easy enough.

Here’s the video:


2502 used some 3d printed ABS parts this past year. They were very durable but one thing to consider is 3d printing is not cheap and will very quickly make you approach your $3500 BOM limit

I watched that video and what I don’t understand is how they make the parts like the worm screw. Obviously there are parts of the screw mechanism that cannot be scanned, how does the printer know how to make the “hidden” portions of those parts?

it just goes one layer at a time, it’s all a specific type of CAD that is sent to the printer. We used the one our school got this year and made some sensor mounts on it and some gear spacers. Since you can just about make anything we created a sensor mount that both held and protected the encoders they held. we even created our own threads in the model. these saved our lives and we made several caps (the part that protected the encoder and screwed in). considering the matches some valuable encoders could have been damaged these things became popular with those in the pit. we also were able to print out a crab pod in the pre-season that we had designed with the intent of using in the game if the game fit a crab drive.

We print out spacers and encoder gears all the time using ABS in our lab.

There are several more teams that do this as well.

I’m waiting for this process we use at work to get cheap enough though:

We printed out the toothed belt pulley for our lifter gearbox. It’s nice to have a mentor whose company owns a uPrint. made several sizes for prototyping and they stood up to a lot of punishment

There was a bit of TV magic involved in the process. The worm on the printed wrench is significantly changed from that of the original.

TV magic indeed. They scanned the wrench, but then had to actually design the pieces inside. Once designed though printing is trivial (but that wrench took 2 hours to print).

“3D Printing” is often a marketing term for many different forms of technology. Find out which specific technology you’re sponsor/school/machine shop has available to you and what it’s strengths, weaknesses, and associated costs are.

I’ve used FDM for a school project before. I’d offer tips or tricks, but I don’t really have any. We were able to machine the part after printing to make adjustments that our final design called for.

We are lucky enough to have our own uprint. This past year we took advantage of it. Maily because we wanted to take a chance on manufacturing parts as we slept. Here is a list of parts we used:
Wheels 6wd
Bearing blocks supporting the wheels
Drum for our cable lift
Bearing glides for lift mechanism
Main body for our manipulator
Couple other parts I am forgetting about.

Design, intent and part orientation are key. Not all parts should be printed but I believe that we proved we could use printed parts as vital parts.

In the end we saved machine time, weight, we all know how valuable each of these items are.

We get our printing done by Redeye/Stratasys when we get it done (so FDM type). If I remember right this was printed with ABS for about 200 or 300 bucks (it would have been cheaper had we CADed holes in it.

We also had a scale model of our robot printed.

That is sitting on a 13" macbook for scale and it printed the gears inside the gearboxes and the fans in the RS775s

The more interesting part about the scale model is there was no “support material” used to model that as far as I am aware, it was all printed “free form” because of the viscosity of the melted plastic, so all parts that extend horizontally were printed unsupported.

Funny, a mentor of ours sent us the exact same link yesterday. :yikes:

Check out for a 3D printer you can build yourself. Once you have built one, you can use it to print parts for another one.

3D printing is definitely a great tool for some robot parts.

As I am the owner of Print To 3D and mentor of 222; I have donated machine time and material to them.

This past year we used several FDM parts on our robot such as:

A pulley/capturing device for surgical tubing.
Transmission pneumatic shifting mount
Encoder mount for elevator.

In addition I also printed up an entire transmission for display as seen here:

Also as previously mentioned the wrench replication video is misleading.
If you want to read up on it see here:

I had to deal with lots of phone calls and emails as one of my videos is “related” to this controversial wrench video on Youtube. Some were non believers while others were amazed they didn’t know this technology existed.

In addition to using 3D printed parts on our robots many FIRST related companies such as AndyMark also use printed prototypes to verify their products are ready for competition before expensive tooling is ever made.


Pardon the threadomancy, but I was wondering if anyone had specific recommendations on a machine for a FIRST Team who might have stumbled upon a few thousand dollars specifically for the purchase of a 3D printer…

All I really know about the technology is that it’s really neat and that there are people who want to acquire one for our technology department and FIRST team, so any suggestions on technologies to acquire, brands to investigate or avoid (and why), etc would be most appreciated!



At our school we have the personal uprint, it prints white only, but also prints a support material. You have to buy a clean station separately which dissolves the support material. The machine works very well, only problem being that the plastic adds up really fast, I think each spool is 30 cubic in, and each cubic inch is $5, and cubic inches go buy really fast. We just got it right before the summer, so hopefully this year our team can use it for some quick prototyping ( our school is making us pay for plastic, not machine time though)

Definitely the UPrint. While there are countless machines on the market, some cheaper (however less professional, ex: the makerbot), the UPrint seems to be the most cost-effective 3d Printer for personal use on the market.
You can find it here.

I believe we may have had some parts printed on a U-print, or a dimension, they are very high quality but I will agree it gets expensive fast. The images I added earlier were printed by Stratasys.

The makerbots do have their merits being lower cost to entry, I believe Aren hill has done some fairly extensive research on budget 3d printing for the Iowa State University robotics team.

We printed replacement tops to our joysticks because we didn’t like where the buttons were.

Thanks, folks!