Swarm 3D Printing Concrete Structures

Autonomous robotic printers create large concrete forms.

Autonomous robotic printers create large concrete forms.

Assistant Professor Pham Quang Cuong and his team at NTU Singapore pose with the 3D concrete structure printed by the two robots working concurrently. Image courtesy of NTU Singapore.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) are using a “swarm printing” approach for creating concrete structures that use two robotic 3D printers working in unison.

Potentially, the technology could be expanded to create teams of mobile robots that print larger concrete forms and structures. According to the researchers, the approach allows companies to print structures on demand, and to do so much faster.

The research, from Assistant Professor Pham Quang Cuong and the NTU Singapore Centre for 3D Printing, was published in Automation in Construction earlier this year.

The robots printed a concrete structure that measured 1.86 x 0.46 x 0.13m in just eight minutes. The structure achieved full strength after one week of hardening. A computer maps out the design and assigns parts of the structure to each robot. The system also sets out a path for each robot to ensure the printing arms won’t collide during production. The computer also uses precision location positioning to ensure proper alignment and printing joints are overlapped.

“We envisioned a team of robots which can be transported to a work site, print large pieces of concrete structures and then move on to the next project once the parts have been printed,” Pham said. “This research builds on the knowledge we have acquired from developing a robot to autonomously assemble an Ikea chair. But this latest project is more complex in terms of planning, execution, and on a much larger scale.”

The researchers plan to expand the system to include more robots, which will allow them to print larger structures.

Professor Pham was in the news earlier in 2018 when two of his robots assembled an Ikea chair in less than 9 minutes.

You can see the concrete printing robots in action in the video at the top, and read more about concrete printing in our previous coverage.

Source: NTU Singapore

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Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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