Technology seems to be rapidly advancing at a faster rate then I can keep up with. Though I certainly have heard of 3D printing, I had no idea about all of the cool things that this type of technology was doing and how useful it could be. When it was first introduced, 3D printers worked mostly with just plastics. However, the list of materials that can be produced has grown to include metal, glass, and even food!
Most recently, MIT researchers developed a system that could 3D print the basic structure of an entire building! Featured this week in the journal Science Robotics, this system consists of a tracked vehicle that carries a large industrial robotic arm and a smaller, precision-motion robotic arm at its end. This smaller arm can be adapted with any type of construction nozzle, such as those used to pour concrete, spray insulation, or a milling head.
What makes this building system different from other 3D printers is that it doesn’t need an enclosure to support the nozzles. This allows for any size building to be created, unlike the traditional printers which are limited to creating objects that can fit inside their enclosures. To prove this system worked, the researchers built the basic structure of a 50-foot-diameter, 12-foot-high dome using a prototype of their design.
The engineers who worked on this project believe that structures built using this 3D printer could be produced faster and less expensively than traditional construction methods. This type of 3D printer could also allow buildings to be completely customizable, depending on the needs of the site or the maker. The researchers claim that different materials could be used as the process of building goes along and that the material density could be varied to provide the perfect combination of strength, insulation, or other factors. Ultimately, the researchers hope that this kind of system could build new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods!
So where could these kinds of printers be used? Pretty much anywhere! Ultimately, developers of the system say that they hope to send the system “to the moon, or Mars or Antarctica” where it could continually build things for years. They also hope to make the system self-sufficient so that these 3D printers could be deployed even to developing countries or areas that need disaster relief after a major storm to quickly provide shelter. The icing on the cake though is that we don’t even have to wait for sometime in the future to use this technology! The researchers say that “we…wanted to show that we could build something tomorrow that could be used right away…[the system] could be integrated into a building site tomorrow!”
To find out more about this new 3D printing technology, check out this article from Science Tech Daily!
Written by Staff Writer Becca Brunner
Becca is a recent college graduate who lives in Tampa, Florida. From a young age, she has been fascinated by the stars and how beautiful the universe is. When she’s not writing for our blog, she can be found reading the latest YA novel, catching up on Dr. Who, or just hanging out with friends in coffee shops.
Photo Credit: Steven Keating, Julian Leland, Levi Cai, and Nei Oxman/ Mediated Matter Group