Robotic Extrusions

6-Axis KUKA+ABS 3D Printing

The project, Robotic 6-Axis 3D Printing, is a highly-integrated installation combining robotics, 3D printing technique and interactive interface. It aims to provide the designer a digital method to eliminate the line between "Designing" and "Fabricating". In this case, architects provides more than just drawings and construction notes, however, they are capable of fabricating their work quickly and precisely by themselves.


3D printing technology has great potential in the future within the field of fabrication, however, it so far hasn't transformed the notion of craftsmanship. The manufacturing process has limitations in spatial flexibility and confines structural strategies along the direction of gravity.

The Robotic 6-Axis 3D Printing project uses the typical material (ABS) but has make a breakthrough in the way it prints. By mimicking the micro-structure of spider silk thread, a specific fabrication strategy has been added into this process. This change makes it possible to print simple self-supporting forms and shows how the form is now capable to grow from the ground. In this way, the material develops its full potential, an expanded materiality through the biomimetic printing progress.

Structural inspiration from spider
Reinforcement of Linear Structure of ABS Material
Structure Simulation Before Fabrication (Software Simulation & Physical Model Simulation)


In the 6-Axis 3D Printing project, the idea of a biomimetic structure is realized by a delicate robotic-end effector. The core component is a petaloid turn-plate, which has 3 movable printing heads attached along the sides and 1 fixed printing head in the center. When the whole system is powered by a servo and starts functioning, the rotation of the turn-plate leads to the oscillating motion of 3 movable printing heads, which in turn produce the spindle-knot-like motion trail.

The printing module is a standardized 3D printing module based on thermo-plasticity of ABS material. The temperatures sensor and heater inside the module take precise control of the printing process. As a result, the 3D printing system, combined with the mechanical system, is capable of printing the biomimetic structure.

Functioning Tool Head (2 Printing Status)
Axon Illustration of the Printing Head(Robotic End-effector)
Exploded Axon Illustration of the Printing Head (Robotic End-effector)


The programming of the robotic-end effectors is based on Arduino. Each printing head has a heater inside which is uniquely programmed and can precisely maintain the temperature in appropriate range. Also there are tubes sending compressed air to the front of printing head to cool and finalize the material. Four material(ABS) delivery systems driven by 4 individual servos work like a typical 3D printing device. Besides, one motor is responsible for the rotating motion of the central turn-plate. Both the speed of delivering and rotating can be changed via the switches on the center stack. In this case, the shape of the structure can be adjusted following the designer's idea.

Components of External Digital Control System
Work-flow Diagram of the Circuit System
Close-up view of the Circuit System



Project Name: Robotic Extrusion (Robotic 6-Axis 3D Printing)

Brief Info: 3-week group work of "Digital Future" Shanghai Summer Workshop 2014, Shanghai

Design Team: SHI Ji in collaboration with LIU Xun / LUO Ruihua / CUI Yuqi

Instructor: YU Lei (Project Instructor, from Tsinghua) / Philip. F. YUAN(Workshop Leader, form Tongji) / Panagiotis Michalatos(Software Tutorial, from GSD)

Photography (Filming) and Editting: SHI Ji