iRobot has just filed a patent for the next step in 3D printing. They are trying to offset one of the biggest problems with the technology, automated machine level finishing. Though high end additive manufacturing machines can be quite accurate, they cannot hit the sub .001” tolerance that many mills can. On top of that, most processes cannot make smooth surfaces like bearing holes or tap threads.
This patent is interesting because companies like Matsura have already created machines like this, and are much further along with prototypes rather than just the idea. Also, iRobot is forbidden to use any technology but plastic filament extrusion, generally a lower quality printing process, with it’s machine because of other industry patents.
Still, it is an interesting and necessary idea because one must merge additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing to expand the range of applications and industries, and as other manufacturers strive to make easy all-in-one machines, they will likely butt heads with this patent.
We as a company do post machining all the time, manually. It is generally not a big deal or too costly, but it would be nice for machine we use to do all the post processing automatically.