Introduction – The list of materials that can be composed by 3-D printing has grown to include not just plastics but also metal, glass, and even food. Now, MIT researchers are increasing the list further, with the design of a system that can 3-D print the primitive structure of an entire building. Structures built with this system could be composed faster and limited cost bearing than traditional construction methods allow, the researchers say.
A building could also be wholly modified to the requirements of a particular site and the desires of its maker. Even the internal structure could be customized in new process, different materials could be integrated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of power, insulation, or other properties. Researchers and scientists made evolution and found the system, dwells of a tracked vehicle that carries a large, industrial robotic arm, which has a smaller, precision-motion robotic arm at its end. This highly controllable arm can then be used to guide any conventional (or unconventional) construction nozzle, such as those used for pouring concrete or spraying insulation material, as well as increased digital fabrication end effectors, such as a milling head.
Structure – A different typical 3-D printing systems, most of which use some kind of an confined, fixed structure to support their nozzles and are limited to building objects that can adjusted within their overall enclosure, this free-moving system can compose an object of any size. As a proof of concept, the researchers used a prototype to build the prime structure of the walls of a 50-foot-diameter, 12-foot-high dome. They made a project, which was finished in less than 14 hours of “printing” time. For these initial experiments, the system fabricated the foam-insulation framework used to form a completed concrete structure. This construction method, in which polyurethane foam molds are packed with concrete, is similar to traditional commercial insulated-concrete formwork techniques.
Ultimately, the system is aim to be self-sufficient. It is equipped with a scoop that could be adopted to both prepare the building surface and acquire local materials, such as dirt for a rammed-earth building, for the construction itself. The whole system could be work electrically, even powered by solar panels. The idea is that such systems could be established to remote regions, for example in the developing world, or to areas for disaster relief after a major storm or earthquake, to provide enduring shelter rapidly.
Uses – To this end, the nozzles of the new 3-D printing system can be used to vary the density of the material being poured, and even to mix varied materials as it goes along. The system can even create complex shapes and overhangs, which the team explained by including a wide, built-in bench in their prototype dome. Any needed wiring and plumbing can be inserted into the mold before the concrete is poured, providing a complete wall structure all at once. It can also conclude data about the site collected during the approach, using built-in sensors for temperature, light, and other parameters to make adjustments to the structure as it is built.