Roaming 3-D printers are in the works

A team of Danish designers are working on plans that could see roaming 3D printers autonomously fix structural problems across the world.

GXN are the research-based spin-out business of Danish architecture firm 3XN. They’re working together with Dansk AM Hub and MAP architects as an initiative called ‘Break the Grid.’

Head of Innovation, Kåre Stokholm Poulsgaard, said: ““Let’s say we have these robots on a building site. How do they interface with traditional construction techniques and the people working there in ways that add value and are meaningful? Because robots can do some things better than humans, that goes for artificial intelligence as well, but there’s a lot of stuff it cannot do. How do we let the robots do what they do best to free up people to do what they do best?”

By customising existing products with a mixture of cheaper parts as well as some bespoke components, a series of robots were created. The idea is that these robots will be able to detect flaws in their environment and then fix them. For example, a sea-based robot would work on building artificial reefs underwater, these structures would be designed to combat coastal erosion and provide a safe habitat for sea creatures.

"Freeing 3D printers to meet these challenges could be a revolution in the making,"

Another robot would roam the streets of a city searching for cracks in concrete to fix. This could be the solution to a huge problem – in the United States it’s estimated that unaddressed problems with roads and bridges could result in a $4 trillion loss by 2025.

The final type of proposed robot would see the printers become airborne as they operate towards the top of high-rise buildings as research has suggested that a customisable composite of glass and polymers could be used to build thermal insulation onto the structures.

"Freeing 3D printers to meet these challenges could be a revolution in the making," explained GXN founder Kasper Jensen.

"By enabling 3D-printing robots to crawl, swim and fly, we can address pressing environmental threats around the world at a lower cost and with greater efficiency."

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