Laser Cutting vs 3D Printing for Rapid Prototyping in Robotics
Rapid prototyping is essential to any engineering design project. This past week we needed to mount a hub motor to one of our existing motor modules, however we needed to prove the concept prior to large scale manufacturing processes such as injection or vacuum moulding.
Initially we went with 3D printing as it is the logical process for testing dimensionally accurate parts for fitment and functionality. These turned out great, but the print was taking 8 hours per set! We wanted to test 4 motors on our system, so that's a total of 32 hours for a proof of concept.
With a slight modification of the CAD, the part was split into layers in preparation for laser-cutting. Hex holes were used to house nuts as an alternative to threading the 3D-printed part, and each layer was cut at a different shape and width of material to match the contours of the part.
The results were amazing; the laser-cut Acetal part proved to be just as strong (if not stronger) than the 3D-printed part at a fraction of the time. 5hrs including design time compared to 32hrs was a no-brainer.
We were able to test the hub motors with great success and will not be overlooking the power of laser-cutting in the future.