Scientists 3D-Print Structures with Bee-Inspired Technology

Sep, 2022 - By SMI

Scientists 3D-Print Structures with Bee-Inspired Technology

Scientists developed Aerial Additive Manufacturing technology inspired by honeybee that uses flying 3D printing drones to reach difficult locations

When locations that are difficult to reach require repairing or building, bringing scaffolding or cranes becomes a critical tasks. Which is why now a team of scientists at Imperial College London and Empa Institute, Switzerland are working on development of a new bee-inspired system that uses aerial drones for 3D-printing and perform these critical tasks. The newly developed system is named Aerial Additive Manufacturing (Aerial-AM), which incorporates two different types quadcopter drones that can communicate with each other and fly autonomously.

One of the drones is the BuildDrones that work from a shared digital blueprint. These drone build the structure collaboratively as they extrude successive material layers such as of wet concrete through the nozzle placed on the underside of the drones. This nozzle moves laterally for compensating any unplanned drifting on the latter part. The second drone type is ScanDrones. With these drone, the printing process is carried out after evaluation of geometry of the structure when it is under construction. Depending on the observations, it advises the BuildDrones on the further steps to follow the blueprint and to generate the required product.

According to the scientists, the system so far has shown accuracy of plus or minus 5 millimeters. The systems operates on its own; however, a human operator remains in the loop in order to take manual control and intervene whenever needed. When the team conducted small-scale tests, the system was used for building 72 layer 2.05-m-tall cylinder from polyurethane-based foam and a 7 inch cylinder from custom material similar to cement. This concept as per the team, proves that drones are capable of working autonomously and construct or repair buildings, for now in the lab. However, as the solution is scalable it may help in repair and building in locations that are hard to reach.

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