Tech - News
Bug-Like Flying 3D Printers Are A Powerful New Tool
By JULIAN VAN DER MERWE
A team of researchers from The University of Bath, led by Imperial College London, published a paper in the journal Nature that details a tantalizing new construction tool: autonomous drones that work like insects to repair and potentially even build entire structures. The researchers dubbed the manufacturing method aerial additive manufacturing, or Aerial-AM for short.
The drones worked on the same principle as extrusion 3D printers, which means they feature a print head that sits vertically over the workspace to place a stream of quick-setting material in layers on a surface; the researchers developed a light, cement-like mixture as their test material. As the extrusion takes place, the print head moves to create the desired shape.
The researchers created two types of drones and intend for them to function in fleets to accomplish repairs or construction work. BuilDrones were tasked with the hard work of laying down material, while ScanDrones performed quality control and oversight duties using 3D scanners, monitoring the Buildrone’s performance and ensuring manufacturing specifications.
Having ScanDrones keep an eye on the construction meant that the researchers could also test more unpredictable materials, like expanding polyurethane foam. The researchers hope the new technology will open doors for rapid construction during disaster relief and structure repairs in places where it's difficult to reach and build safely.