3D Printing Takes Flight
What We Did
We began our research by conducting an extensive third-party audit of successful 3D printing and robotic platforms. With this information, we set out to design and fabricate our own proprietary 3D printer and modify an off-the-shelf hexacopter (an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV) to carry it. Our goal was to explore this advanced technology and discover new ways it could be utilized for the creation of architecture for both commercial and humanitarian purposes.
We designed the feeder with an open top to allow for liquid material to be refilled during flight. When activated, a custom-made auger moves material through the conveyor and out the nozzle. The location and quantity of material output is controlled by toggling when the auger rotates. For our initial testing, we developed a lightweight, rapid-setting concrete that sets within 15 minutes. This ensures the material can be layered on top of itself without slumping.
What This Means
Payload capacity and flight time are the two biggest limiting factors to widespread implementation of devices such as MUPP. In order to overcome this, the concept of “teaming” must be implemented. With multiple MUPPs acting in support of one another— changing batteries and restocking material mid-flight— these challenges can be overcome.
By marrying 3D printing and unmanned aerial vehicles, the traditional obstacles that can make construction challenging or impossible in many places—access, terrain, climate, human safety—are no longer of concern. MUPP has the potential to operate in any locale.
Our research proves that it is possible to develop a functional 3D printer that is not limited by the x, y, or z axis. While there are still many improvements to be made for the technology to be fully usable, applications are vast.
Robert Jernigan, Jared Shier, Tam Tran, Mindy King, Li Wen