With ten 3D printers and a robotic attendant, this automated fab lab doesn't need any human help

One of the big issues with 3D printing farms is that, in order to achieve large batches of product, you need to have a large number of printers working together in unison. Particularly if you’re a one or two-person team in the “maker” community, that comes with definite challenges.

“The wife of one of my friends runs a 3D printing company, printing cookie-cutters for Etsy,” Mark Silliman, one of the co-founders of Oregon-based startup Tend.ai, tells Digital Trends. “I used to watch her run to the garage, where she kept her printers, every five minutes throughout the day — just in order to keep up with demand. I thought that there had to be a better way.”

Like any entrepreneur worth his salt, Silliman thought that “better way” could have the makings of a company. Together with two collaborators, Robert Kieffer and James Gentes, they created a cloud robotics company (“Your hardware, our software”), able to train collaborative robots to carry out complex multitasking — such as operating an entire 3D printer farm without the need for much in the way of human intervention.

“This is something that wasn’t even viable 18 months ago,” Silliman says. “These robots have only just arrived on the market. We hope that Tend.ai will have a place in this community, and not just in terms of 3D printers. Laser-cutters are another application this idea could easily be applied to, and there are far more. One of the most exciting things about modern robots is that they can adapt to a wide variety of tasks. It’s just a matter of the right software. A small business can rationalize buying a robotic arm if they know that it can adapt as their needs change. That’s where we come in.”

Based on the above video — in which a single robot arm handily operates 10 separate 3D printers, using a basic webcam to read each printer’s display, while also removing the final 3D-printed products from the printbeds for boxing — Tend.ai is just getting started! Who couldn’t love that kind of innovation?

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.

Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gene-edited bacteria that could make cannabis plants obsolete

Ever wanted to brew cannabis like you brew craft beer? At UC Berkeley, biologists have managed to engineer brewer’s yeast so that it produces the main cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Resupply mission carries 7,600 pounds of scientific equipment to ISS

The Cygnus spacecraft has rendezvoused with the International Space Station as part of a months-long resupply mission. The craft will remain docked until July 23, while the crew take in the 7,600 pounds of research equipment it carried.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers surprised to find deep lakes of methane on Titan

In the two years since the Cassini probe burned up in Saturn's rings, data from its recordings is still being analyzed. The latest research has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, hosts deep liquid lakes of methane on its surface.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.