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3D Printing at SxSW Robot Petting Zoo

Image © Gensler

Mobile 3D Printing is a research project out of Gensler Los Angeles to create a proof of concept prototype 3D printer that can generate objects of any size and in remote locations. The product of this research has been named MUPPette, for Mobile Unmanned Printing Platform. The –ette suffix designates it as a small version of a scalable vehicle.

MUPPette marries advanced consumer robotic technology with a custom built 3D printer to facilitate in-air extrusion of cementitious material. The aerial nature of MUPPette allows for limitless printing in the x-y-z axes, a feat not possible with conventional 3D printers.

Recent improvements to MUPPette involved incorporating a laser rangefinder for persistent altitude control and redundant GPS sensors for more accurate locational hold. Through an iterative process of rapid prototyping, the printer has been completely redesigned from the ground up and optimized for use on our hexacopter. Each component is parametrically controlled and can be adapted to different sized copters in a matter of minutes.

Image © Gensler

The feeder is a gravity-assisted spiral conveyor and designed with an open top to allow for refilling mid-flight. When activated, the auger moves material through the conveyor and out the nozzle. The location and quantity of material output is controlled by toggling when the auger rotates.

We envision various commercial and humanitarian applications for MUPPs in the future. A large scale MUPP could be deployed to sites cut off from traditional modes of transportation to construct temporary relief shelters or repair damaged levees. They could also be deployed for disaster preparedness by constructing flood water diversion barriers to protect property and infrastructure. MUPPs could even be utilized by explorers in hostile environments to erect distant encampments well in advance of the expedition’s arrival.

We are still in the early stages of our research and welcome community contributions to this promising new adaptation of mobility and 3D printing.

If you’re in Austin for SXSW, stop by the JW Marriot. MUPPette will be on display there as part of the Field Innovation Team's Robot Petting Zoo, March 15-17.

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

Image © Gensler

Jared Shier is an architect at Gensler Los Angeles. A DIYer at heart, he’s constantly taking things apart around his home to see how they work. When he’s run out of things to disassemble, he can usually be found flying drones, playing video games, or hunting down the latest trendy restaurant to dine at. He's currently leading research into developing a drone that can 3D print objects or structures at any size. You can contact Jared at jared_shier@gensler.com.
Tam Tran is an associate 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.

Reader Comments (2)

I am beyond intrigued, very cool this is, wish I could see it in action.
03.16.2015 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Wittnebel
One of my frustrations with the current generation of drones is flight time. Has the team looked into dirigibles? I imagine with the energy demand for keeping the drone aloft reduced, you could get a lot more printing time before running out of fuel.
03.26.2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyland

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