Meet Project Skywalker: a fully-automated 3D printing factory operated by a robotic arm

Brooklyn-based 3D printing factory Voodoo Manufacturing has a new employee that never sleeps and won’t take lunch breaks. Dubbed Project Skywalker, the system demonstrates what the company calls the first fully functional robot-operated 3D printer cluster.

“One of our near-term goals at Voodoo is to lower our costs by 90 percent over the next three to five years in order to compete for higher-volume part runs,” Jonathan Schwartz, co-founder and Chief Product Officer, told Digital Trends. “Ultimately, however, we intend to build a fully-digital factory, in which digital files are provided as input, and physical parts are produced as output.”

In the meantime, Voodoo will use Skywalker, which consists of a robotic arm and nine 3D printers mounted on server racks. As the printers churn out objects, the arm collects and moves them to a conveyer belt where they can be picked up by employees. Voodoo calls the robot a harvester and insists it will save employees time from menial tasks but won’t take their jobs.

“Skywalker will not be replacing any of our employees,” said Max Friefeld, co-founder and CEO. “It will enable them to focus on higher-value tasks compared to what we’ll be using robots to automate.”

Friefeld projects that over time this increased efficiency will enable the company to hire more human employees in more fulfilling roles. “We don’t think of automation as a zero-sum game, where a robot gaining tasks means that a person must lose tasks or their job,” he said. “This is true because manufacturing demand and output in the United States, the world, and at Voodoo is growing rather than staying constant or shrinking. This is a trend we expect will continue, mostly thanks to the efficiencies gained by automation.”

Schwartz says the Skywalker system will help produce products from prosthetics to keychains, and even custom parts for hardware. However, this is Voodoo’s own special project and the group has no plans to make it commercially available at this point.

Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

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 sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.