There has always been a close relationship between architecture and technology. However, recently architecture has stagnated and the construction industry has been slow to adopt technologies that are already well established in other fields. Whilst we design digitally we still construct manually.

Robotics offers great potential towards innovation within the construction industry. However, in their current form applied to the architectural field, in particular construction robotics, these systems all share a specific limitation: the objects they produce are linked to and constrained proportionally to the size of the machine. This methodology of production and construction is not scalable. In this sense, to create a house, using current construction robotics, the machine needed must have a work envelope as large as the house itself.

Hence, the project here below elaborated aims to address this particular limitation through the creation of a technology that is both scalable and capable of fabricating structures using tools that are independent of the final product’s shape or size. The Team explored and investigated the potentials of additive manufacturing (3D Printing) applied to the architectural scale.

Substituting one large robot for number of smaller more agile robots, we developed a family of small-scale construction robots, all mobile and capable of constructing objects far larger than the robot itself. Moreover, each of the robots developed was to perform a diverse task, linked to the different phases of construction. Working together as a family towards the implementation of a single structural outcome.

Minibuilders is a family of three robots, each robot linked to sensors and local positioning system. These feed live data into custom software allowing control over the robots movement and deposition of material, an fast setting artificial marble.

Current research focuses on 3D printing for the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). Which means that three dimensional objects may be produced by depositing repeated layers of solidifying material until the shape is formed. Material adheres to the previous layer with an adequate bond upon solidification, may be utilized.

The positioning device, the small robots all equipped with the print-head nozzle, move in a predefined path depositing material in layers. Each layer base is defined by the previous layer, and each layer thickness is defined and closely controlled by the height at which the tip of the print-head is positioned in relation to the previous layer. Controller, material supply and power sources are connected externally.


Step 1: Base Robot

The first robot, the Base Robot, lays down the first ten layers of material to create a foundation footprint. Sensors mounted inside the robot control direction, following a predefined path. Traveling in a continuous path allows for a vertical actuator to incrementally adjust the nozzle height for a smooth, continuous, spiraling layer. The advantage of laying material in a continuous spiral is that it allows for constant material flow, without having to
move the nozzle up at intervals of one layer.

The foundation robot size 26*35*37 cm, weights 2.05kg.

Tools and materials:

-Makerbeam with bearings and bolts and nuts

-QTR-8RC reflectance sensor array

-Electronic tape

-Waterjet aluminum gears

-T2.5 timing belt and pulley

-Laser cut acrylic

-Motor, Axle and wheel mount (aluminum or 3d printed)

-9/4/4mm bearings

-4mm metal shaft

The base robot is mobile, with a vertical CNC moving the nozzle up in Z, incrementally while the robot moves along a predefined path. This creates a continuous spiraling toolpath for the nozzle laying the material on top of each layer previously printed.

All the three robots make use of Makerbeams for their frames, giving flexibility within the prototyping process. Makerbeams are reusable and relatively easy to adjust using the T-slot bolt system. The CNC is also made using the makerbeam bearing kit. You can learn from projects listed here.

The connection between the wheels, chassis and motors is simple using a bearing to support the wheel shaft attached with self locking nuts. The stability of the shaft is reliant on the size and spacing of the bearing set. This solution created a more stable platform for printing than a soft suspension system.

For the robot to follow the predetermined path we used a basic QTR-8RC reflectance sensor array. This allows the robot to follow a predefined path. When testing outside we found that the sensor would lose the track of its path under strong direct sunlight. The simple solution we found to this was to shade the sensor from the sun.
The Arduino and Processing file can be found in step 4 software section.

<p><em>&quot;Small Robots&quot;?!?</em></p><p>They really are tiny (compared to earth) :)</p>
<p>What is the material that you are using?</p>
<p>Brilliant work! I was hoping it was a more general print bot than the three separate specialized bots, but specialized bots could also be added to accomplish other tasks of construction such as plumbing and conduits for electrical systems. A small &quot;pipebot&quot; could make structural tubing around itself, possibly with a second print head for a rigid foam core. Coordinated little pipebots could make honeycomb cell structures for strength. A fiber placer could also be rigged to insert fibers that stick through and up out of the bead allowing higher strength before the need of the vacuum bot.</p><p>Man does this have my gears turning.</p><p>Thanks!</p>
<p>Brilliant rethinking of 3d printing for large structures!</p><p>The flexibility of these robot's capabilities seem like they would be very impressive, but I find myself wondering if a much cheaper and simpler version could be designed to create simplified housing for disaster areas and other low income communities. I imagine something with a shape like a beehive sort of like the domes created by spirally winding continuous sandbags like these:</p><p><a href="http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/smalldomes.htm" rel="nofollow">http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/smalldome...</a></p><p>The device would not even need much in the way of computing power. The extruder could be guided mechanically, Sort of like this:</p><p><a href="http://jimsoven.blogspot.com/p/the-dome-part-i.html" rel="nofollow">http://jimsoven.blogspot.com/p/the-dome-part-i.htm...</a></p><p></p><p>Of course for this purpose using local materials would be best, but if the polymer/marble dust is cheap enough it would still be practical.</p>
<p>Is this thing DIY? Are there plans available?</p><p>Maybe there is a link here, but I don't see it.</p>
<p>I would like to suggest that, rather than using suction to hold the third (suction) robot in place, you take advantage of the inherent complexity of the structures that the grip robot can lay down, and have it &quot;build in&quot; a track for the suction robot to hold onto and follow. For instance, the grip robot could make a small series of indentations beginning every 0.2 meters horizontally and continuing throughout that horizontal layer. Then it would create an overhang in subsequent horizontal layers. The third (suction) robot would have notched wheels that would fit into this track, holding it to the surface. This would eliminate the need for a complex, failure-prone suction system, and also provide a built-in self-metering (measuring) system that would improve position accuracy. If I'm not being clear please contact me and I'll make a diagram. </p>
<p>that must be quite expensive!! how long did that take?</p>
My brain just melted. Really quite awesome.
This is by far the most incredible and amazing thing ever to come out of instructables. This is so inspiring.
<p>How much for a boat? great ible!</p>
<p>This is really cool. Basically a six-axis 3D printer. I want one.</p>
absolutely awesome! 3D printed house anyone!??
<p>Oh yeah.</p><p>Waste-free construction is the future!</p>
<p>Amazing work. Thank you.<br>And now for something that will make you laugh.</p><p>Your incredible project reminded me of part of a 1974 movie (not very good, except in parts) called The Groove Tube. <br>The part you have to see is this <br><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/008BPUdQ1XA" width="500"></iframe></p>
<p>I take it the building material doesn't shrink much, or cracks might form. Rebar, or mesh, or some sort of fiber worked into the material is the usual solution in cement construction. This appears to have none. Do you ever wish it had some back-up fiber worked into the form?</p><p>A really nice instructable. Thanks. </p>
<p>Awesome, but please edit the audio so the &quot;music&quot; is 1/2 the volume. The people speaking have accents (to English speakers) and the obnoxious volume smothers their voices. And those of us who find this amazing would prefer to hear them, not the electronic buzz behind them. </p><p>loved it, I often thought what a hoot it would be to connect a pump/feeder to a fast set plaster/cement kinda like spray on cement. As I have no ability to make that I love that someone else did. </p><p>Bravissimo</p>
<p>I love your 1st paragraph :</p><p>There has always been a close relationship between architecture and technology. However, recently architecture has stagnated and the construction industry has been slow to adopt technologies that are already well established in other fields. Whilst we design digitally we still construct manually.</p><p>Thanks for sharing</p>
That is extremely cool. Except for one picture in which the device is being pushed by someone, it is very hard to understand the size of the objects. A human operator perhaps for proportion in the images?<br>A time lapse video of this project will win the interwebz :)
<p>Just saw the video which was not visible in the instructable app. The process is well thought of and the robots work well. I especially liked the third one which sticks with suction.</p>
<p>Wow, amazing!</p>
<p>I remember seeing this project elsewhere online a while ago. Thanks for posting to Instructables! I love this idea.</p>
<p>Wow, wow, wow... Absolutely amazing. 3d printers are the new future of buildings ,architectures, engineering, industrial, design and art.</p><p>Try contact with NASA, they are working with private corporations on giant 3d printers to settle bases and buildings on planets.</p>
Impressive! And everybody keeps complaining about the ever too small max sizes that 3D printers can spill out. :)
<p>This is so innovative and cool! I'd never thought that tiny 3d printers could be so capable at printing anything bigger than them... Nice job, thanks for sharing!</p>
this is really cool. it's amazing to see everything these 3d printers can do

About This Instructable




More by Minibuilders:Minibuilders - How to 3d print big structures with small robots 
Add instructable to: