Introducing DediBot – a 3D printer manufacturer out of Hangzhou, China – who has created quite a buzz in Shanghai this week with the launch of something it's calling the Fly Elephant. The prototype took flight at the company's booth at the TCT Asia trade show and it is no ordinary multi-drone but features an extruder that can be used for rapid prototyping of large structures.
Under the six rotor cage of the Open-ended Additive Manufacturing (OAM) drone hangs a 3D printing nozzle that's fed plastic, concrete mix or other materials from a tube connected to the top of the OAM Fly Elephant. The drone's printing path will be plotted by software, for a promised printing accuracy of 0.1mm.
The 3D printing drone showcases its potential applications in the construction industry, with the free-flying design meaning that the size and shape of printed structures are not restricted by the dimensions of a static 3D printer's enclosure.
Construction projects could be undertaken by a cluster of 3D printing drones working together, possibly with drones each extruding different materials for a kind of multiple printhead approaches to structure builds. Short battery life may well limit the potential usefulness of such technologies so DediBot is looking to wireless power solutions to give the drones potentially unlimited airtime on the construction site.
The Fly Elephant is still much at the concept stage, with many questions yet to be answered, including what impact on flight, movement and printing accuracy the material supply tube might have on the drone. Would printing need to be abandoned during high winds and would the process be limited to producing rough and ready structure prototypes?
Guess we will have to stick around to find out more about the Fly Elephant drone.