Minibuilders : Robots That Use 3D Printing To Create Buildings
A group of researchers and architects has created a system, where robots can build structures bigger than themselves, using 3D Printing technology. These builder robots, called ?Minibuilders?, have successfully demonstrated that it is possible to construct buildings using ?small? robots.
When I came across this news report from Cnet, and watched the Vimeo video produced by the makers of the Minibuilders, I could not help but think of the ?Constructicons? (a group of fictional characters from the various Transformers continuities. Although they vary from depiction to depiction, they are usually Decepticons who turn into construction vehicles and combine into a larger robot ? Wikipedia).
These ?Minibuilders?, however, are not fictional, and also not toys that combine and transform. These are actual robots, that , when used together, can create structures that are hundreds of times bigger than their own size.
The ?Minibuilders project? is spearheaded by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. The project aims to use robotics, as a way of creating more complex structures, that are needed for human living. In this case ? buildings.
The project is composed of a Master Robot and a ?family? of 3 robots, with 3 specific tasks, that utilize the technology of 3D printing to build the structures. The 3 Robots are aptly named according to the tasks that they are assigned to do. They are :
- 1st : Foundation Robot
- 2nd : Grip Robot
- 3rd : Vacuum Robot
At first, it is pretty hard to imagine how robots, which are the size of lawn mowers, are able to build a structure like a building. But, by working together, they can create a structure in 3 stages.
- Stage 1 : The Foundation Robot creates the circuits of the perimeter by placing 20 layers of the foundation. The robot moves back and forth using sensors to tell it where to go, according to the building plan. A ?vertical linear actuator? puts it in the proper position where it will lay the foundation, with the ?printing material? sourced from the ?Master Robot?.
- Stage 2 : Once the foundation is laid, the Grip Robot is attached to the foundation structure, and moves up, down, and around the walls, using roller clamps. As it moves around, it prints the additional layer of material, and also uses heaters to dry up the material quickly. The Grip Robot also uses ?actuators? to print on curved walls and horizontal structures like roofs, door lintels and windows.
- Stage 3 : The Vacuum Robot attaches itself to the structures created by the first two robots, using a suction pump and a vacuum generator. The robot prints more layers over the top of these structures, in order to reinforce them.
To get a better picture of how it is done, do watch the video feature on the Minibuilders:
A 1:1 prototype of the structure created by the Minibuilders is now being shown on display at the Design Museum of Barcelona, and the research team is also working on a documentary on the project.
Want to know more about 3D Printing and Robotics? Do read our previous reports on :