Many consider 3D printing to be the second industrial revolution and I would not disagree because from printing buildings to clothing items, 3D printing has only amazed us so far.
A 3D printer manufacturer in Hangzhou China, DediBot, has come up with what it calls the ‘Fly Elephant’. This multi-rotor drone with an extruder (used for rapid prototyping of large structures) was tested at the company’s booth at the TCT Asia trade show. It’s a difficult concept to grasp but allow me to try; a 3D printing nozzle hangs down from a six-rotor cage of Open-ended Additive Manufacturing (OAM). This nozzle uses plastic, concrete mix and other materials that comes from the OAM connected to it via a tube. According to the maker, the printing accuracy is 0.1mm as the software meticulously determines the drone’s printing path.
Fly Elephant can further smoothen the process of printing structures as this free-flying printer has no size and shape restrictions that derive from a 3D printer’s ‘enclosure’. The product of this printer resembles the layer-by-layer 3D printed builds in Spain and Dubai. Construction projects could easily be carried out by using multiple 3D printing drones as each drone’s extruder could use a different material. However, the biggest limitation when it comes to this technology is the short battery life. In order to find a solution to this issue, DediBot is exploring wireless charging options so that these drones can have unlimited flying time at construction sites.
There are many queries regarding this product as it is still at the concept stage. For instance, how will variations in movement, flight, and printing accuracy affect the drone, and can this drone withstand highspeed winds? Moreover, is this drone able to print usable buildings or will it just create ready structure prototypes? Seems like DediBot knows what it is doing so all these questions are probably being worked upon as you read this. Let’s hope all goes well as the success of Fly Elephant could redefine the scope of 3D printing!