Robots in Architecture, Art, and Design > General Discussion

controling ABB robots

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Hi everyone! My name is Nikolay and I am new to the forum.

First off, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everyone that has contributed work towards this initiative and shared so much valuable knowledge! Thank you!

Now, a bit about me - I am trained as an architect and recently have been investigating various automation technologies available to architects to prototype all the way to real world  implementations. My research lead me to elaborate my knowledge about using a robotic arm and naturally found out about KUKA| PRC trough  Karl Singlein`s you tube channel.

I have noticed that some companies already implementing that setup (robot arm + concrete extruder, like XtreeE - ) are mostly using ABB robots. And, as I am considering acquiring potentially a robot arm for my research work printing in clay initially, I would like to know if there are  a compelling reasons for ABB vs KUKA robot arm and can ABB robots be controlled though the KUKA|prc under grasshopper. I find this tool genuinely intuitive and really making robot arms move accessible to people like me.

Any advice for the best setups  (software + hardware) for 3d printing with a robot arm will be much appreciated. Budget will be limited as I need to invest myself and get to experimenting in with the technologies and develop adequately adapted designs. 

Obviously, I looked at the cheapest options :) of old KUKA robots, read also the guidelines by Prof. Johannes Braumann to stay away from older KRC1 control units like this one -

And perhaps more recent examples like this - might make more sense.

I would like to understand better the limitations of older robots, so far i understood that the bottelnecks could be when printing more complex geometries like this for example ( . Is it more to it is there work around like running the robot directly form a PC.

With regards to size (reachability) and payloads - i would like to be able to carry an extruder that can print lets say clay and perhaps mortar mixtures at some point, elements of lets say in teh cubic meter range.

So , in short that summarises  the storm of ideas in my head and believe could do with some guidance - thanks in advance!

Johannes @ Robots in Architecture:
Hello Nikolay,
Welcome to the forum!
There is no proper answer for KUKA vs. ABB, personally we work with KUKA because the local team is excellent and the headquarter in Germany is not far from here. But that might be different in your area. Mechanically they are all excellent machines, personally I would go with whatever brand you have got support, e.g. through a local integrator or through people you know.
I'm happy that you are enjoying KUKA|prc, unfortunately it only works with KUKA robots. It's just where our expertise is and we don't have the capacity to integrate other brands so far.
For older robots memory can be a limitation, but of course you can creatively work around that, like splitting a 100MB file in 20 separate files (that you would then manually need to copy on by one, i.e. remove one file before copying the next one).
For payload: We had a nice pellet extruder on our 10kg payload robot, personally I would probably try to go into the 50kg reach to have some spare weight for material etc.
In my experience, the most affordable robots are the ones used widely in industry, usually with between 2.5m and 3m reach and a payload of >100kg. So 3D printing won't be a problem in that regard.
Unfortunately I don't have experience with used ABB robots.
Hope that helps a bit!

Hi Johannes,

Thank you for the warm welcome and quick reply to my conundrum :)

Very useful to hear your thoughts and I see some hope in considering even older models.  It is good to know that I can split a larger file but practically how would that work. Is that something to consider on a geometry creation level lets say in Rhino/Grasshopper or once a desired design/geometry is created and the code prepared for it  (sorry i am very new to all this) i can split the "machine code" in smaller parts. I want to understand at which level should I consider that bottle neck in order to make a judgement. I would not like to  be limited on design level.

Thank you again!


Johannes @ Robots in Architecture:
Hello Nikolay,

The manual copying or starting of files is not a fun job, will take a minute or two every time I guess. There are software packages on the KUKA side that can automate that process (DirectoryLoader), but they are expensive.
Colleagues of mine like to use PointLoader, I think it costs like 2500EUR and streams large KRL files:
Regarding the splitting, that very much depends on the process, if it's continuous or not. So interrupting an extrusion process somewhere in the middle is not a good idea, you would need to identify a good spot where it e.g. transitions from one layer to another.


Thanks Johannes for your very useful support. I think i will take my time to evaluate well the best solution but from our exchange it is safe to assume it better to get a robot with a KRC2 ED05 controller or newer.

All the best,



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