Self-driving cars have captivated the world. Now, a Brooklyn-based start-up called Voodoo Manufacturing wants to bring the same autonomy and safety to manufacturing, with a factory that makes 3-D prints of any imaginable design, staffed almost entirely by robots.
Customers upload a design file to Voodoo's site. The start-up then manufactures their desired items in batches from one to 10,000 units per order. Voodoo's factory runs 160 different 3-D printers today, rather than using injection molding machines you'd find in a conventional factory.
Most recently, Voodoo began developing robots to run the 3-D printers with little to no human oversight, said CEO and co-founder Max Friefeld.
The robots, which Voodoo assembles from available sensors, arms, grippers and other components, can take a plate out of a printer, put a new one in, then restart it to begin the next job.
These tasks used to be done by people.
The company's proprietary software controls the way the robots work in conjunction with the printers, and keeps orders running on time.
"At a high level, our goal is to automate the machine-tending portion of our factory, and get to 80 percent utilization of all the hardware here," Friefeld said. "With a really lean team, we could operate around the clock, with maybe one person working the night shift."