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Skywalker; the first-ever robot-operated 3D printer cluster.

Skywalker; the first-ever robot-operated 3D printer cluster.


The word “innovative” is easy to overuse, but there’s no other way to describe what Voodoo Manufacturing has named Project Skywalker: a fully functional, robot-operated 3D printer cluster. It was developed because, according to the company, employees were spending up to 15% of their time “harvesting” build plates, i.e. removing them from the printers after print jobs were completed, taking the prints off the plate, and replacing them on the printers. It’s a task that can be a minor annoyance to individual, at-home 3D printer users, but in a large 3D printing facility churning out thousands of prints every day, it adds up to a lot of time being spent by employees who have plenty of other things they need to do.


Skywalker is the first fully functional robot-operated 3D printer cluster. It consists of nine 3D printers mounted on server racks, plus a robot arm that removes build plates and places them on a track for employees to collect once print jobs are finished. A plate “hopper” then feeds clean build plates to the robot, which replaces them on the printers for new print jobs to begin. Internal software lets the printers communicate to the robot when print jobs have finished and when new ones need to be started; see it in action in this video. Voodoo calls the robot a harvester and insists it will save employees time from menial tasks but won’t take their jobs.

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