If you have not been impressed enough by the rapidly expanding 3D printing market, and its ability to transform data on a computer screen into a physical object, then this story may just do it.
Arguably two of the most intriguing technologies of this decade are 3D printers, and drones. One may ask, “Why hasn’t anyone combined the two yet?” Well, a London man named Mirko Kovac, of University College has done just this, in essence creating the world’s first flying 3D printer.
Inspired by the behavior of a bird called a swiflet, which uses its own saliva to construct a nest, Kovac and his team set out on a mission to turn drones into robotic swiflets. The flying machine uses two different chemicals, which when hardened forms polyurethane foam. It sprays the chemical from a printing module connected to its base. This machine was created to spray the foam onto an object which it wishes to have transported, while another drone swoops in and sets itself down on that object, waiting for the foam to harden, The second drone then carries the object away. This would be a great way for drones to retrieve dangerous objects, or objects which are in challenging environments, like a war zone or collapsed building.
The drone could be put to use in various other applications, including being used as an actual 3D printer which hovers above its print. For instance, if a bridge or building needs repair, the flying 3D printer could deposit material where needed, in any shape or orientation that those controlling it choose.
The possible uses of an airborne 3D printer could be quite interesting. It’s the convergence of two transformative technologies like this, which can often lead to incredibly unique approaches to everyday problems. Perhaps we won’t see 3D printers flying around, printing out replacement parts for airplanes in flight any time soon, but this technology could certainly find its own niche. Mirko Kovac will be at the Imperial Festival in London on May 9th and 10th with his drones in hand. Take part in a discussion around the possibilities surrounding flying 3D printers at 3DPB.com. Check out the video below of Kovac’s creation in action: