Although the advent of 3D printing is blazing trails in the world of design, the requirement for 3D printers to be larger than the objects they produce presents a major constraint - particularly in architecture. However an innovative new project called Minibuilders is poised to push past that limitation and revolutionize the construction industry. Developed by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), Minibuilders consists of a family of three tiny robots that work together to build giant structures far larger than their diminutive size.
The Minibuilders comprise three robots, each programmed to carry out different functions for the three separate stages of the building process: Foundation, Walls and Ceilings, and Reinforcement. First, the Foundation Robot 3D prints the footprint of the structure based on a predefined path that it follows with a sensor. Once the foundation is in place, the smaller Grip Robot clamps onto the foundation layers and extends the structure higher with 3D printed walls and ceilings with window and door cutouts. Finally, the Vacuum Robot finishes the job and reinforces the newly built shell with additional layers.
While the three different robot types are not designed to work together all at once, mobile robots belonging to the same group can work concurrently to speed up the building process. In other words, multiple Grip Robots can be used at the same time to build the walls and ceilings. The IAAC researchers have also implemented a 1:1 prototype 3D printed by the Minibuilders that is on display at the Design Museum of Barcelona.
Images via IAAC