We’ve all seen how 3D printing technology has been adapted to build houses, bridges, and large structures. Usually, those projects use several roaming printers to fabricate structures, so imagine what a swarm or 3D printing construction robots could do. That’s the idea behind MIT’s Mediated Matter Group’s Fiberbots, which work as a group spinning fiberglass filament to create massive structures from buildings to unique art installations.
Each Fiberbot features a motorized winding arm that’s connected to a tank on the ground, which is filled with fiber and resin. As the arm spins, it pulls the filament and resin via a tube and mixes them before being extruded through a nozzle at the end of the arm.
Before a structure section is created, the Fiberbot inflates its body, creating a mould for the fiberglass to be spun around, like building a cocoon. Once the fibers have been formed for that section, the robot turns on an ultraviolet light to cure the resin into a hard tube. The robot then deflates it’s body and uses motorized wheels to move its body upward onto the next segment, where it will repeat the cycle until the structure is complete.
Each Fiberbot is autonomous and is capable of communicating with each other via WiFi to avoid obstacles, and to find the most efficient way to build the desired structure. They can change the shape, weave pattern and thickness, and the direction of the tube structures depending on the application. Beyond architecture and art, the researchers feel their Fiberbots could be adapted for use in extreme situations, such as constructing shelters and bridges in disaster areas. They also plan to demonstrate how their technology can be scaled to create micro and product-scale structures.