Automated Hybrid Manufacturing of Electrical Objects

Principal Investigator: Professor William Boley

Project Description

The overall goal of this project is to implement hybrid manufacturing capabilities into an automated assembly line at BU and to develop a lab manual that enables students to utilize this new capability. The Automated Design and Manufacturing Laboratory (ADML) is an automated assembly line located in BU’s Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC) that serves as the lab component for a couple of courses at BU on automated and advanced manufacturing. Over the semester the students learn how to use and program each automated component of the system (two CNC mills, three 6 axis robotic arms, cameras, and PLCs), and then integrate the components to automatically manufacture new products of their own design that positively impact society in some way.

Currently the ADML is limited to milling and robotic assembly. However, recent efforts have been made to add other forms of manufacturing, namely direct ink write (DIW) 3D printing and pick-and-place, to the assembly robot of the system. With these new capabilities, students will be able to have a hands on hybrid automated manufacturing learning experience that combines subtractive manufacturing (e.g., milling) with multiple emerging additive manufacturing technologies (robotic assembly, DIW 3D printing, and pick-and-place).

While much progress has been made to add 3D printing and pick-and-place to the assembly robot of the ADML, more work will be needed to integrate this capability with the other automated components of the ADML and create a lab module that enables students to learn this new capability. This RET project will focus on fulfilling this work with the application of automated hybrid manufacturing of 3D electronic objects. Parts machined by the CNC mills will contain channels and slots for electrical wiring and components, respectively, and features for joining together with other machined parts. They will then be sent, via robotic arms and conveyor, to the assembly robot. The assembly robot will then pick and place electrical components into the machined slots and connect them by DIW printing a conductive ink (developed by our lab) within the machined channels. Once this fully automated demonstration is realized, the project will be finalized by writing a lab manual that takes the students through the design, programming, and manufacturing process and assesses the learning outcomes.


Kayla Wolfe

2023 Timeline

Weeks 1-2: Training on system
Week 3: Assist with experiments and trouble shooting of robot programs and software for new hybrid manufacturing capability
Week 4: Develop and implement a lab module for students to learn the new hybrid manufacturing capability
Weeks 5-6: Write lab manual for new learning module