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Building 3D printer turned into a stand-alone universal robot

Steven J. Keating et al., / Science Robotics

 

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed and tested a robotic construction platform that can not only print buildings, but also perform other types of work. The article is published in Science Robotics .

The development of additive technologies in recent years has led to the creation of building 3D printers of a large size, with which you can sometimes print the building entirely. For example, this year the company Apis Cor entirely printed a house in the village of Stupino near Moscow, and last year an office was published in Dubai . Nevertheless, such projects require only printing a mortar, and other operations during the erection of the building have to be carried out by traditional methods with the help of additional equipment. In addition, the vast majority of building 3D printers are installed statically and can not move independently.

Developed by engineers from MIT, the robotic platform called Digital Construction Platform (DCP) is a hydraulic manipulator on a crawler platform weighing 3.7 tons. The platform can move independently on the construction site and prints various materials, such as foam, ice or building mixes with the help of different nozzles. In addition to 3D printing, DCP supports the installation of additional equipment. For example, you can install a welding machine, drill or bucket on the manipulator.

To demonstrate the capabilities of DCP researchers printed a rounded structure of foam. The diameter of the structure was 14.5 meters, and the height of the wall was 3.7 meters. The whole process of printing foam took 13.5 hours. As the authors note, in the future such installations may be able to operate autonomously, independently collecting energy using solar cells and using suitable materials found in the environment for printing. At the same time, researchers believe that for printing it will be possible to use all sorts of biomaterials – for example, hay.

It is worth noting that DCP is in its way the first attempt to create a universal stand-alone building platform. Earlier, the Italian company WASP proposed to solve the problem of additional equipment in another way – the purchase of a set of five 3D printers for housing construction and 3D printing of household items.Such DCP building platforms can be used in the future not only on Earth, but also on other celestial bodies. This is facilitated by autonomy in power supply, mobility and the ability to adapt to different materials of production. The technology of printing materials has already been developed , which is 70 percent of the regolith, and Russia even plans to create a lunar 3D printer.

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