A team at MIT has created a 3d printing system that can create building structures of "any size", which moves around its environment on its own using a tracked vehicle.
There have been a few other notable projects similar to this one in the past, including a widely discussed house that was 3d printed in under 24 hours in California. However, the difference between this MIT system and previous ones is its ability to construct building frames of much larger size.
While "most of which use some kind of an enclosed, fixed structure to support their nozzles and are limited to building objects that can fit within their overall enclosure, this free-moving system can construct an object of any size,"Steven Keating, a mechanical engineering graduate who was lead researcher on the project said.
The "construction industry is still mostly doing things the way it has for hundreds of years," and according to Keating, his team's new 3d printing system could simply "just go out and make these buildings for years."
The system uses a tracked vehicle (see video) attached to a large robotic arm. Attached to the long arm is a small precision-guided robotic arm which extrudes the building materials - either concrete or a spray insulation material. Because of the tracked vehicle, the system can move freely on its own, making it highly customizable for each environment it's working in.
"With this process, we can replace one of the key parts of making a building, right now," Keating says. "It could be integrated into a building site tomorrow."