Atlanta Magazine: 3-D Printing Empowering the Next Industrial Revolution
SoftWear Automation, located in a low-slung Westside building, is focused on overcoming those technological obstacles using robots made partly by 3-D printing. Its main innovation involves high-speed (but relatively inexpensive) cameras that track the movements of fabric with the help of sophisticated software, correcting for when the cloth shifts and buckles. The technology was originally developed by a team at Georgia Tech, with funding from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. (The military generally must buy uniforms from U.S. suppliers and therefore wants to cut labor costs.)
According to K.P. Reddy, the 45-year-old senior adviser to SoftWear, 3-D printing has been essential in two ways. First, it enables the company to customize the robot’s design to the client’s needs. (For example, the effector, a hand-like part that touches the cloth, must be tailored to each specific fabric.) Second, it means employees can prototype new parts quickly and cheaply. Their designs don’t need to be sent off to a factory to fabricate with expensive injection molding.
“If we’re truly innovating, we break more things than we fix,” Reddy says. “We’re always trying to push the limits. We would have to be hyper-conservative in our R&D department if we had to make $20,000 mistakes. I can make $50 mistakes all day long. We would have had to raise five times as much capital if 3-D printing didn’t exist.”
Read the full article at Atlanta Magazine.