We’ve all heard the talk about how robots would eventually take over and the humanity would soon become a slave to them. This approach has been taken up by a number of sci-fi movies as well. While this though sure is alarming, no one seems to be complaining about robots and there’s a very good reason behind it; we don’t mind robots carrying out our work while we relax on the couch. Robots are best suited for difficult and repetitive tasks because they do not complain nor do they tire. Meet Dr. Mirko Kovac who has taken this approach and taken it to the skies. Yes, we are talking about drones that can carry out quite a number of tasks.
But wait, the heading talks about 3D printing, what is this article really about? Slow down and we will explain it all folks. Dr. Mirko is known for his amazing ideas that have mixed the usefulness of robots, drones and (you guessed it) 3D printing. He created a flying 3D printer drone that is capable of flying into dangerous and harsh areas and make use of an extruded glue to pick up objects and fly them back. He is immersed into research of drones and of all the benefits that they have to offer at Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London. Although he isn’t the only one interested in what robots, drones and 3D printers can do, his work is the only particular research that focuses on gaining these advantages from the sky. He has said that he sees his drones being able to carry out commanding work in major construction and in disaster zones as well.
Drones are the best suited option when it comes to accessing hard to get areas. They can be used for building temporary shelters areas before the emergency response team can actually be there. The shelters would most probably be either self-constructing structures or dome-shaped. Kovac explains, “Drones would fly to the [emergency] site and just observe what is happening. Once the site has been identified, and where shelters would be needed, then we could create the virtual model on the computer offsite, in a safe zone away from the site.”
Kovac believes that soon groups of drones will be helping out in emergency situations while working faster and at a more affordable rate. The concept can also be made use of apart from in crisis situations only and can also be called upon for improving the construction altogether. Korvac also sees this technology being used for the construction of ‘smart cities’. Now wait a minute, with the implementation of this technology are we helping companies in laying people off? Not at all, in fact, according to Korvac, this would help in creating even more jobs as drones will have to be manufactured, operated and maintained. This would facilitate employment creation while helping in streamlining of operations.
Kovac and his team have recently been granted about $5 million in forms of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and industrial partners. The team will continue to work in the same direction, however, it would seem that Kovac’s ideas are evolving. He even plans on adding 3D printing to the mix by means of additive building manufacturing (ABM). The potential is more than just huge and will find applications worldwide. Construction industry is already employing 3D printing and robots for construction, Kovac is merely taking the whole process to the sky.
Construction industry is usually attributed as the most beneficial industry when it comes to 3D printing and its potential, however, the potential yet has to find a breakthrough. The benefits of incorporating 3D printing are quite vast, however, what lacks is the necessary equipment and streamlining of processes for actually accomplishing this. Once all the ingredients of the mix are complete, then we can expect a lot of construction practices to change and change for the better.
Kovac and his team foresee the aerial drone that is capable of 3D printing as a means of providing enhanced safety in areas of construction. By making use of ABM processes in synchronization with aerial drones, construction of high-rises and myriad of other constructions can be carried out from the sky using these mini factories.
Although this all sounds quite futuristic, the team is already working on converting these concepts into reality to transform how emergency management operates and to help those who need it on time. According to Imperial College London, “Dr. Kovac is leading the project as Principal Investigator with partners from the Dyson Robotics Lab at Imperial, the University of Bath, University College London and the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Industrial partners on the projects are leaders in construction, robotics and 3D printing including the BRE Trust, Buro Happold, Cementation Skanska, Dyson Limited and Ultimaker BV.”
You can learn about additive manufacturing in the video below.