Featured image of Researchers Combine VR, CAD, and 3D Printing to Create the Robotic Modeling Assistant
Print Your Design While You Design It

Researchers Combine VR, CAD, and 3D Printing to Create the Robotic Modeling Assistant

Picture of Tyler Koslow
by Tyler Koslow
Mar 21, 2018

A team of researchers have developed RoMA, an interactive fabrication system that uses virtual reality to 3D model an object while a robotic 3D printer simultaneously builds the design.

As the technologies the make up the so-called fourth industrial resolution–such as additive manufacturing and virtual reality–continue to expand, we begin to gain more insight into how they all interact with one another. For instance, over the last year, VR has become an intriguing tool for CAD modeling, enabling designers to innovate within the 3D space.

Now, a team of researchers have recently developed an interactive fabrication technique that fuses VR, CAD, 3D printing, and robotics. The Robotic Modeling Assistant (RoMA) is a system that allows users to design 3D models in a VR setting, while also utilizing a robotic 3D printer that simultaneously produces the design in real-time.

The concept works by having a designer wear an Oculus Rift VR headset that has a camera mounted to the front, effectively enabling AR capabilities. There is a rotating platform placed in front of the user for the object to be 3D printed via the robotic printer, which is positioned above the print bed.

Using the mounted camera, the designer is able to view the platform, object, and robot within the AR headset. The 3D CAD design is overlaid onto the object, allowing the user to create and modify the model while the robotic arm simultaneously 3D prints it.

RoMA: Design in VR and Create with 3D Printing at the Very Same Time

The team is comprised of researchers from Cornell University, MIT CSAIL, University of Central Florida, and the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany. Their aim is to eliminate the lengthy waiting period that lulls in between creating a design and having it physically prototyped.

Not only does this project help transport ideas into the physical realm quickly, the researchers also show that you can 3D print onto objects or even around them. In the research paper, the team shows how they successfully designed and 3D printed a stand for a toy jet, and also created a structure around various LEGO pieces.

There are certain precautions that the team had to take while developing RoMA. The RoMA operates under specific guidelines that ensure user safety. For example, if the user happens to touch the print platform, the robotic arm will instinctively back away.

In addition, the robot arm is programmed to remain in its work area, eliminating any possible danger for the VR-induced designer. And, if the user just so happens to wander into the robot’s work area, the hand controller will vibrate as a warning.

Although the concept is still in its primal stage of development, there is a massive amount of potential tucked within such a system.  At the moment, RoMA is only capable of 3D printing wireframes, but who knows how this idea will evolve as new technologies continue grow and become more intertwined.

If you want to learn more about how this interactive fabrication works, you can read the research paper here.


License: The text of "Researchers Combine VR, CAD, and 3D Printing to Create the Robotic Modeling Assistant" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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