3D printers can create some amazingly complicated objects, but most printers build volume is limited by the size of the machine itself. Freeform 3D printers are currently being developed and now researchers in Barcelona have combined mobile robots with 3D printing to construct objects far larger than the printer/robot itself.
Developed by the Institute Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) in Barcelona, the ‘Minibuilders’ work in three stages. First the ‘Foundation Robot’ lays down 20 layers of material to create a foundation structure that the print job will be built on. The next stage is completed by the “Grip Robot’, which as the name suggests, grips onto the foundation layers by four rollers and prints along the structure previously laid down by the Foundation Robot. The final stage is done by the ‘Vacuum Robot’, which attaches itself to the surface of the printed structure via suction cups and moves freely across the printed structure. It deposits extra material to reinforce the print and it can travel over any surface, regardless of inclination.
The team at the institute have already dedicated seven months to the project and they’ve still got a long way to go. “Minibuilders is a work in progress, innovations and lessons learned from this 7 months period will be built upon to create a new generation of minibuilders,” said Mathilde Marengo of IAAC.
Check out the video below.