Fly Elephant is the name of a drone operated 3D printer that is making its public debut at TCT Asia in Shanghai this week. The theoretically unlimited scale 3D printer has been developed by DediBot, a cutting-edge manufacturing technology company headquartered in Hangzhou, and represents the ability to build structures without the constraints of a gantry.
Open-ended Additive Manufacturing
A Fly Elephant system is basically a delta 3D printer mounted to a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). It operates, either as a single unit or a swarm, using a technology termed Open-ended Additive Manufacturing (OAM).
In OAM, Fly Elephants can be positioned with 0.1 mm of accuracy, in winds up to grade 7 on the Beaufort Scale (Near gale).
How does it feed?
At TCT Asia, a demo Fly Elephant model has been shown depositing layers of cement to make a low, free-standing foundation for a building.
The only constraints to the system is the material feed. In concept drawings, a helium balloon serves as a feed stock store which is tethered to the UAV by a pipe.
The floating feed would still enable free roaming drones, however, there may yet some challenges to the loading of the balloon, and the flying power of the drone. Interestingly, the balloon may also act as a stabilizer for Fly Elephants.
Drones and construction
Many projects have identified the potential impact of drones on automated construction.
In a technology-driven shipbuilding project launched by Sembcorp Marine, UAVs are used as roving inspectors and assistance in health and safety.
The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) is also using drones to monitor the construction of building blocks.
DediBot’s Fly Elephant however, takes this concept to a whole new level.
Protolabs is sponsoring the 2018 3D Printing Industry Awards design competition. Submit your design now to win a 3D printer.
Featured image shows the Fly Elephant drone 3D printer. Image via DediBot