Date of Graduation

7-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

Zhenghui Sha and Wenchao Zhou

Committee Member

Haitao Liao

Second Committee Member

David Jensen

Third Committee Member

Sarah Nurre Pinkley

Keywords

Additive Manufacturing, Computational frameworks, Cooperative 3D Printing, Decentralized Planning, Multi-Robot Collaborations, Multi-Robot Planning

Abstract

This dissertation proposes a novel cooperative 3D printing (C3DP) approach for multi-robot additive manufacturing (AM) and presents scheduling and planning strategies that enable multi-robot cooperation in the manufacturing environment. C3DP is the first step towards achieving the overarching goal of swarm manufacturing (SM). SM is a paradigm for distributed manufacturing that envisions networks of micro-factories, each of which employs thousands of mobile robots that can manufacture different products on demand. SM breaks down the complicated supply chain used to deliver a product from a large production facility from one part of the world to another. Instead, it establishes a network of geographically distributed micro-factories that can manufacture the product at a smaller scale without increasing the cost.

In C3DP, many printhead-carrying mobile robots work together to print a single part cooperatively. While it holds the promise to mitigate issues associated with gantry-based 3D printers, such as lack of scalability in print size and print speed, its realization is challenging because existing studies in the relevant literature do not address the fundamental issues in C3DP that stem from the amalgamation of the mobile nature of the robots, and continuous nature of the manufacturing tasks.

To address this challenge, this dissertation asks two fundamental research questions: RQ1) How can the traditional 3D printing process be transformed to enable multi-robot cooperative AM? RQ2) How can cooperative manufacturing planning be realized in the presence of inherent uncertainties in AM and constraints that are dynamic in both space and time? To answer RQ1, we discretize the process of 3D printing into multiple stages. These stages include chunking (dividing a part into smaller chunks), scheduling (assigning chunks to robots and generating print sequences), and path and motion planning. To test the viability of the approach, we conducted a study on the tensile strength of chunk-based parts to examine their mechanical integrity. The study demonstrates that the chunk-based part can be as strong as the conventionally 3D-printed part. Next, we present different computational frameworks to address scheduling issues in C3DP. These include the development of 1) the world-first working strategy for C3DP, 2) a framework for automatic print schedule generation, evaluation, and validation, and 3) a resource-constrained scheduling approach for C3DP that uses a meta-heuristic approach such as a modified Genetic Algorithm (MGA) and a new algorithm that uses a constraint-satisficing approach to obtain collision-free print schedules for C3DP. To answer RQ2, a multi-robot decentralized approach based on a simple set of rules is used to plan for C3DP. The approach is resilient to uncertainties such as variation in printing times and can even outperform the centralized approach that uses MGA with a conflict-based search for large-scale problems.

By answering these two fundamental questions, the central objective of the research project to establish computational frameworks to enable multi-robot cooperative manufacturing was achieved. The search for answers to the RQs led to the development of novel concepts that can be used not only in C3DP, but many other manufacturing tasks, in general, requiring cooperation among multiple robots.

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