DediBot's flying 3D printer steals the show at TCT Asia - 3D Printing Industry
3D Printers

DediBot’s flying 3D printer steals the show at TCT Asia

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.

Comncept image showing how Fly Elephant 3D printers could be used to construct buildings. Image via DediBot
Concept image showing how Fly Elephant 3D printers could be used to construct buildings. Image via DediBot

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).

DediBot’s vision for the OAM system is that it could be transferred to zero-gravity and sub-sea environments, for building off-world habitats or underwater pipelines.

Potential future developments for the Fly Elephant. Image via DediBot
Potential future developments for the Fly Elephant. Image via DediBot

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.

A prototype Fly Elephant Open-ended Additive Manufacturing system. Image via DediBot
A prototype Fly Elephant Open-ended Additive Manufacturing system. Image via DediBot

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Featured image shows the Fly Elephant drone 3D printer. Image via DediBot