Building or repairing structures in hard-to-reach areas is a difficult task as it is very difficult to bring in cranes, scaffolding, etc. That’s why scientists are creating bee-inspired systems. It uses a flying 3D printed drone to do the job.

Known as Aerial Additive Manufacturing (Aerial-AM), the technology is being developed by researchers at Imperial College London and the Empa Institute in Switzerland. It actually incorporates two types of his quadcopter drones that fly autonomously and communicate with each other.

First of all, there are BuildDrones. Working from a shared digital blueprint, they build structures collaboratively by extruding successive layers of material, such as wet concrete, from an underlying nozzle. Its nozzle can move laterally relative to the drone to compensate for unintended drift of the drone.

The second type of drones are called ScanDrones. They monitor the printing process and evaluate the geometry of the structure being built. Based on these observations, he advises BuildDrones what to do next to stick to the blueprint and produce the intended finished product.

Close-up view of the BuilDrone print nozzle
Close-up view of the BuilDrone print nozzle

Imperial College London

The current manufacturing accuracy of this system is ±5 mm. It’s also designed to work on its own, but is kept in a loop so that a human operator can intervene and manually control it if necessary.

Small-scale tests conducted to date have used Aerial-AM to fabricate 72-layer cylinders 2.05 m (6.7 ft) high and 28 layers of 18 cm (7-in) from expanded polyurethane-based foam. ) Cylinders made of custom cement-like materials.

Mirko Kovac, Project Leader of Imperial’s Aeronautics Department and Empa’s Robotics Materials Technology Center, said: “This scalable solution could help with construction and repairs in hard-to-reach locations, such as high-rise buildings.”

In the future, it may be possible to print buildings on Mars using the Aerial-AM system.
In the future, it may be possible to print buildings on Mars using the Aerial-AM system.

Yusuf Furkan KAYA, Airborne Robotics Laboratory, Imperial College London / Empa

A paper on this study was recently published in the journal NatureYou can see the drone in action in the video below.

Readers may also want to check out the Fly Elephant, a 3D printed aerial drone being developed by Chinese company DediBot.

3D printing with drones

Source: Empa


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