Animal-inspired flying robots are going to 3D build mid-flight

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“We believe our fleet of drones could help reduce the costs and risks of construction in the future, compared to traditional manual methods,” also stated Professor Kovac.

Funded by many important foundations

Some crucial foundations and universities worldwide are among the project’s supporters.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (part of UKRI), the Royal Society, the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme, the Royal Thai Government Scholarship, and a University of Bath Research Scholarship, this project is also supported by Industrial Partners Skanska, Ultimaker, Buro Happold, and BRE.

Abstract

Additive manufacturing methods using static and mobile robots are being developed for both on-site construction and off-site prefabrication. Here we introduce a method of additive manufacturing, referred to as aerial additive manufacturing (Aerial-AM), that utilizes a team of aerial robots inspired by natural builders11 such as wasps who use collective building methods. We present a scalable multi-robot three-dimensional (3D) printing and path-planning framework that enables robot tasks and population size to be adapted to variations in print geometry throughout a building mission. The multi-robot manufacturing framework allows for autonomous three-dimensional printing under human supervision, real-time assessment of printed geometry, and robot behavioral adaptation. To validate autonomous Aerial-AM based on the framework, we develop BuildDrones for depositing materials during flight and ScanDrones for measuring the print quality and integrate a generic real-time model-predictive-control scheme with the Aerial-AM robots. In addition, we integrate a dynamically self-aligning delta manipulator with the BuildDrone to further improve the manufacturing accuracy to five millimeters for printing geometry with precise trajectory requirements and develop for cementitious–polymeric composite mixtures suitable for continuous material deposition. We demonstrate proof-of-concept prints including a cylinder 2.05 meters high consisting of 72 layers of a rapid-curing insulation foam material and a cylinder 0.18 meters high consisting of 28 layers of structural pseudoplastic cementitious material, a light-trail virtual print of a dome-like geometry, and multi-robot simulations. Aerial-AM allows manufacturing in-flight and offers future possibilities for building in unbounded, at-height, or hard-to-access locations.

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