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Foam-Spraying Quadcopter Becomes a Flying 3D Printer

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the because-we-definitely-need-one-of-those dept.

Robotics 34

Zothecula writes "The swiftlet may not look much different than other little birds, but it has one unique ability – it builds its nest out of its own saliva. Inspired by the swiftlet, scientists at Imperial College London's Aerial Robotics Lab have created a robotic quadcopter that can extrude polyurethane foam while in flight. By targeting where that foam goes, it can build up simple structures, essentially becoming a flying 3D printer."

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Accuracy (1)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#46968167)

Hopefully it's more accurate than Ketchupbot was...

Re:Accuracy (1)

jefe7777 (411081) | about 4 months ago | (#46968501)

If we can load up that quad copter with hot grits, and then fly it over to Natalie Portman's place, and ....-nevermind.

Wow! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968219)

Just imagine the guns you could 3D print with that one.

Can I buy it with Bitcoin?

Re:Wow! (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#46968307)

I was thinking about emergency shelters in disaster areas.

Seriously, if you could scale these, it would be ideal as you wouldn't have to deal with closed or obstructed even washed away roads. If you used a closed cell foam, they would be buoyant. and the liquid to foam design means you do not have to level or set the grade of the area before installing. Just get the supplies as close as possible, fly in and spray a few domes where people are congregating, then get better relief to them once the paths of ingress are passable. You could likely even make makeshift rafts and canoes if flooding is a potential problem but with all the other debris in the water, it might not be too smart.

Re:Wow! (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about 4 months ago | (#46968387)

Probably better to just use a larger quad-copter, set up an area near the disaster to build your foam huts, and then fly them to the exact location.

No matter how good these things get, it will still be less efficient than a fixed printer, and you still have to move the same weight of materials to the final location. You also still need a nearby staging area to refill the printer, so there is no gain there, either.

It might be a lot more useful at a science fair, or a geek bar.

Re:Wow! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#46968487)

I was thinking immediate response. Take a situation like Katrina for instance. Ignore all the slow response BS, the fact that the mayor of New Orleans failed to follow the disaster plans, or that the governor chose to argue over who controlled what instead of letting the feds who seemed to be unprepared anyways come in so it would help her political career. But what we had was a number of people who took shelter from the flooding on an overpass with no shade or relief from the wind. They were stuck there for days and while a news copter could put a reporter in to document the suffering, they couldn't deliver water or anything.

So if one of these was large enough, they could send it in right off the bat and create a shelter of some sort to shade or even block the wind while everything else is being ushered into position. Or they could create rafts to be towed out by power boats once they got situated (but then again, those could be brought in with the boats). Of course if they just built walls with a ledge overhanging them, they could be toppled to become rafts too. Or imagine a boat has come to rescue those trapped at an apartment building only to find more people than the boat can safely hold. If the boat stays and tries to take some on, they risk being overwhelmed by people panicking when being told some would be left behind and trying to jump on board anyways or they could leave and have them lose hope in being rescued and getting killed setting off on their own. So the boat stays back, announces additional barges are on their way, this thing comes in quite a bit faster than towing another boat to the location and uses just enough foam to take on the remaining stranded people, and the boat tows them to safety.

But you are likely right. A fixed printer might be a better concept in this regard if you have the time to set it up and get it functioning.

Re:Wow! (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about 4 months ago | (#46968795)

A quadcopter could just drop a tarp and water?
Slightly easier than trying to spray plastic on a overpass?

Re:Wow! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#46968847)

Point taken. I guess I was getting excited and trying to Rube Goldberg everything up.

Re:Wow! (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about 4 months ago | (#46969017)

Pretty lame either way.

Now if we sprayed nanobots in to the wind at disaster sites, they could coalesce together around people who require assistance and build them whatever they need.........

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968557)

Awesome idea at a geek bar.
A flying drink-mixing bartender-copter.

Best Headline EVAR! (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 4 months ago | (#46968243)

Except that, as a regular /. reader, I'm becoming a little desensitized to these things.

Re:Best Headline EVAR! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968395)

After the first couple of words, I was expecting the full title to be: Foam Spraying Quadcopter Becomes Latest Riot-Control Gadget

Convinced (2)

Oysterville (2944937) | about 4 months ago | (#46968247)

With this I feel now more than ever that my job isn't nearly as fun as it should be.

Re:Convinced (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 4 months ago | (#46968299)

Even if it wasn't fun, it would be cool to work in a place called Imperial College London's Aerial Robotics Lab.

Re:Convinced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46969521)

I worked for a UAV company in the US for a couple of years, then I decided that I wanted a paycheck that came as promised instead of periodic "shortfall sharing".

Good, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968293)

It needs to be patented and also be Cloud based. It also needs some sort of privacy invading feature. Facebook can then buy it for 300 billion dollars.

Re:Good, but... (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 4 months ago | (#46969531)

It's flies... in the sky... doesn't that qualify as cloud-based?

um (4, Funny)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#46968295)

ok, so we're now basically calling anything that moves a robot? and anything that deposits any sort of material a 3D printer?

My ass has been 3D printing better stuff that this since the 70s. It does it totally automatically so it's the best robotic 3D printer on the market!

3D Printing? (4, Interesting)

ByTor-2112 (313205) | about 4 months ago | (#46968301)

Why do we continue to call all of this shit "3D Printing"? Why not fabrication? And squirting foam from a drone is a long way from a "printer".

If it doesn't put ink on a piece of paper, it's NOT a printer.

Re:3D Printing? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#46968397)

Silly String has the original patent on 3D printing. They are just waiting to strike.

Re:3D Printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968435)

Why do we continue to call all of this shit "3D Printing"? Why not fabrication? And squirting foam from a drone is a long way from a "printer".

If it doesn't put ink on a piece of paper, it's NOT a printer.

You aren't a Maker, are you? Go away and make room for the innovators.

Re:3D Printing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968859)

"Makers" aren't innovating anything apart from finding new ways to butcher the english language.

Re:3D Printing? (1)

ByTor-2112 (313205) | about 3 months ago | (#46975019)

Personal attacks? I'm a ChE, so you wouldn't be "making" anything more than early 18th century tools without people like me.

Re:3D Printing? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#46979255)

Why not fabrication?

Because fabrication is too general a word. The proper name is "additive manufacturing".

But fabrication can include many processes, including subtractive manufacturing (usually CNC machine), simply bolting two parts together to form a third, nailing things together, injection molding, etc. And it can involve multiple processes - additive followed by subtractive, etc.

In fact, combining the existing tools of being able to injection mold some stuff, add and subtract bits can easily manufacture parts that once had to be manually assembled or took many parts to accomplish.

Does anyone remember... (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about 4 months ago | (#46968321)

...that movie "Batteries Not Included"?

Hey look at me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968393)

I can 3D print my name in the snow!

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968467)

So there's no bottom to the absurdity of 3D printing hype?

I guess this means seagulls use a form of 3D printing when they poop on my car?

Planetary Annihilation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46968639)

For anyone who is into new RTS's, this is exactly the construction method portrayed in Planetary Annihilation. This effect certainly adds to the quality of the game. Here's a link. [youtube.com]. 0:11 for example. I am not an Uber Entertainment employee.

Prelude to nanolathing (1)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 4 months ago | (#46969399)

Remember Total Annihilation (now rebooted as Planetary Annihilation)? Reminds me of the concept in that game of nanolathing, ie spraying nanite construction bots to build a structure or vehicle, either from a mobile platform (vehicle, kbot or plane) or static factory.

Re:Prelude to nanolathing (1)

doti (966971) | about 3 months ago | (#46981031)

By far the best RTS ever.

Hello? Will you enterain us? (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 4 months ago | (#46969871)

First thing that came to mind when I saw this link was 'Singularity Sky' by Charles Stross. I'd direct anyone curious about it to look up the novel instead of me trying to explain it fully. But it's a very interesting idea that someone has came up with here. And as with any new technology like this it does have interesting possibilities. Like a flying tool kit that will make anything you'd like if you'll just tell it a story.

Can You See It Coming? (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 3 months ago | (#46973753)

Polyurethane foam homes have already been built. Usually it involves a bag full of air and a coating being sprayed on the bag. Now we could do this with a hoard of quad copters. We could even hold burlap in place suspended from quad copters while special shapes were formed. Obviously foam homes are energy efficient and very low maintenance. The shock is that they can also be quite strong and wind resistant as well. The thickness of the foam shell is only limited by the dept of your wallet.

...Might be more interesting then it looks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46976235)

If a robot can build its own landmarks, it can help it to map it's surroundings, especially in areas dominated by organic features (forests, plains, etc.) where man made permanent structures are not present.

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