Scientists from Liberec develop 3D printing robot able to create right angles

3D printing robot able to create right angles

One of the major obstacles in the use of 3D printing in the construction sector are the sharp edges on most buildings, at least in this part of the world. Scientists from Liberec are now developing a construction robot that should be able to deal with right angles and sharp corners. Its model should be completed at the start of 2022.

Most of the existing construction robots are able to handle rounded shapes and fluid curves. However, in this part of the world, most buildings are designed with sharp edges and right angles.

The new robotic arm, which will be able to deal with this obstacle, is currently being developed under the guidance of expert Václav Záda in the laboratories of the Technical University of Liberec.

Václav Záda | Photo: Technical University of Liberec

“We have already completed a 1:4 model that works, but there are still some deficiencies. We need to equip the arm with a robotic drive and harmonious gearboxes, otherwise it won’t be accurate enough. We need the final machine to print with the precision of up to 5 mm.”

Work on the final robot will begin as soon as scientists have verified their procedures on a 1:2 model. They are hoping to complete that early next year.

One of the biggest advantages of the newly developed robot will be its long range, says Václav Záda:

“Our robot will have a reach up to 5.6 meters, while standard industrial robots only reach up to four metres. Standard robots are also constructed in a way that if you want to stop the final segment, you need to stop the whole machine. This means you have to slow down and accelerate again, causing a considerable loss of energy.”

The Liberec robot is designed so that its end segment - the one that carries the print head - can stop independently of the others. While this will pose a significant challenge for the robot's controls, the result should be a globally unique device that can also print sharp corners and right angles.

A special construction mixture for the Liberec robot is currently being developed at the Klokner Institute at the Czech Technical University in Prague. One of the challenges will be to reduce its final price, which is presently around three times more expensive than conventional concrete.

On the other hand, experts say the robot will considerably reduce the cost of human labour on the construction site, as it won’t require the use of steel.  Instead, the robot will use fibreglass, which is easier to work with and, unlike steel, it is not threatened by corrosion.

Václav Záda once again:

“The printing process is very smooth and enables us to print very complicated structures which is very useful. So I believe that in a short while, within let’s say 30 years, construction from reinforced concrete will be abandoned and replaced by printing from pure concrete containing these special fibres.”