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The Spirit of Invention: Mobile 3D Printing

MUPPette - Mobile Unmanned Printing Platform from Gensler LA on Vimeo.

A fully automated mobile platform for 3D printing capable of producing objects of limitless scale does not currently exist.

In the hope of remedying this situation, Gensler’s Los Angeles office initiated Mobile 3D Printing, a Gensler research project born from an observation of present-day 3D printing technology and its limitations.

This project will span several years and seek to create a fully functional unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of 3D printing. Our team decided to undertake this project for the following reasons:

  1. We have observed efforts in various regions of the world to increase the size of 3D prints. Many harbor the ambition to use this technology to print larger objects such as cars, rooms, and even homes. Every effort to create such a printer increases the size of the X-Y-Z axis constraints begging the question, why can’t we circumvent these constraints by removing them entirely?

  2. Unlimited X-Y-Z axis constraints on a 3D printer provide designers with unlimited design freedom; they no longer have to adjust scale or unitize designs to meet manufacturing requirements. So by undertaking this project, we are laying the foundations for the creation of technology capable of making anything of any size, anywhere.

  3. We could not resist the spirit of curiosity and invention. We wanted to push the limits of conventional 3D printing and UAV technology to see what's possible.

The first year of this multi-year project concluded in April 2014 with the successful deployment of the hexacopter prototype, MUPPette (see video below). The name stands for Mobile Unmanned Printing Platform; the -ette designates it as a small version of a scalable vehicle. MUPPette marries advanced consumer robotic technology with a 3D printer, enabling in-air extrusion of a thin line of PLA plastic filament in an outdoor environment.

Image © Gensler

The hexacopter proved to be the ideal initial platform to provide X-Y-Z axis freedom as well as the payload capacity necessary to conduct early testing. PLA plastic was selected as the build material due to its light weight, availability of components, and lower melting point. A camera gimbal was reconfigured to stabilize the 3D printer from the movement of the hexacopter.

We envision various construction applications for MUPPs in the future. A large scale MUPP could be deployed to sites cut off from or limited by conventional modes of transportation to serve a variety of social or humanitarian purposes. MUPPs could also be teamed together to form the basis for an autonomous workforce in commercial construction, combining the layout and construction of building elements in-place by a fleet of intelligent devices.

This represents only the very beginning of a multi-year endeavor. We welcome community contributions to this promising new adaptation of mobility and 3D printing.

Image © Gensler

A fully automated mobile platform for 3D printing capable of producing objects of limitless scale does not currently exist.

The research team: Mindy King, Jared Shier, Tam Tran The principal sponsors: Rob Jernigan, Li Wen Other contributors: Shawn Gehle

Jared Shier is a designer in the Commercial Office Building Studio at Gensler Los Angeles. A DIYer at heart, when he’s not studying for architecture licensing exams, he’s taking apart things around his home to see how they work. When he’s run out of things to disassemble, he can usually be found playing video games or hunting down the latest trendy restaurant to dine at. You can contact Jared at jared_shier@gensler.com.
Tam Tran is a designer at Gensler Los Angeles. Since he began in 2012, he has been involved in many research projects exploring technology as well as academic research studios regarding Downtown Los Angeles. Besides research, he also leads the office's documentation through photography, film, and animation by challenging how architecture should be presented to the public sphere. For further information please contact him at tam_tran@gensler.com.
Mindy King has been a designer at Gensler Los Angeles. During her four year tenure at Gensler, she has been involved in many design initiatives such as IDEAS (editions 4-6). Besides research, she takes particular interest in pushing the idea of "making," shown through the creation of Gensler's first full-fledged Model Shop, Digital Fabrication Lab and MUPPette.

Reader Comments (1)

Awesome project! I'm wondering if a dirigible might be more appropriate for small-scale mobile 3-D printing as it could have potentially lower power requirements (more flying time), equal payload capacity, and steadier control movements? Keep going guys - I can't wait to see where this project goes!
05.29.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRy Auburn

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