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Thinking outside the box: Mobile 3D printing and unlimited build volumes

This is such a simple idea, and yet it is probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. As with almost all ideas, this one starts with someone else’s idea.

A few years ago Dutch designer Dirk van der Kooij came up with one of my favorite things ever, the Endless chair. This chair is made using a 3D printer Dirk made. The printer consists of a robot arm with an extruder attached to it. This is a new way of making 3D printers. Dirk didn’t use a box in which the 3D print head is suspended in but instead attached it to a robot arm. He thought outside the box, and thanks to that his Endless chair is in the MOMA.

 

So I was thinking…what if you took an industrial robot, mounted an extruder on it and then put the resulting 3D printer on a chassis of some sort? A bomb disposal robot for example or a tank. You add some simple AI and sensors, such as the ones needed for soccer playing robots. Add the 3D printing/robot arm software and perhaps a remote control kill switch (if only because if we’re both hiding in caves while the robots roam the earth you won’t kill me outright).

Now you have a mobile 3D printer with an unlimited build volume. It could, given enough time and material, 3D print the entire earth. You could have it trundle from location to location to build outdoor furniture or buildings. It could build itself ramps or drive up existing ramps to build higher. You’d have an unlimited 3D printer that would be able to make gigantic things and be a versatile tool for the construction or manufacturing industry. You could mount multiple print heads on it so that the robot could on the fly replace its 3D printing technology. So it could use a concrete extruder for large things and then a powder based system for fine details. It could also paint quite easily. Constructicons…go! What do you think of the idea? Below is a, rather crude, photoshop of what the tank3Dprinter would look like.

Liked that? There’s more to read..

Given enough eyeballs all things are shallow.

There’s no money in 3D printing.

3D printing a blank canvas.

The Sistine Chapel in an age of screens.

Dear HP, Brother and Seiko, please make a 3D printer.

Dieter Rams vs. Jony Ive.

Image: Creative Commons, Attribution DaveOnFlickr and Please Don’t Sue me, Dirk van der Kooij.

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