The U.S. Air Force has opened the new Agile Manufacturing Lab in New Mexico. The hope is that the lab can take advantage of developing technologies in robotics, 3D printing, and advanced computing to expedite the design process, particularly in the aerospace and energy sectors.
The new venture was created as part of a collaboration between the Air Force Research Lab and the University of New Mexico.
Funded by a $6.7 million grant from the Air Force, the lab is located at the university's research park.
The lab's approach is to combine machine learning, multimaterial additive manufacturing, intelligent robotic assembly, machine vision, and advanced manufacturing to create "agile manufacturing for high-value, low-volume production."
As part of the investment, the lab will include six industrial robots, a pair of 3D printers, and a central computing system. According to a report from Design & Development Today, the engineers hope the capabilities will “accelerate the development of new systems in satellite defense, lasers, and microwaves.”
The six robots came in pairs, each focused on a different part of the design and production process. One set is actually a pair of Baxter Robots from Rethink Robotics, which recently went under; most of the staff moved to collaborative robot competitor Universal Robots. The Baxter bots will be used to create assemblies, another pair of robots will work on repeatable production, and the third pair will use artificial intelligence (AI) software to fully assembled products.
The equipment could also give students a better opportunity to receive an education in advanced manufacturing techniques in order to prepare for an evolving workplace.
Image Credit: IEN