Although 3D printing technology has opened countless possibilities, there is one large drawback to the conventional indoor 3D systems: they can only produce items smaller than the printers.
To address this drawback, engineers at the University of Chile have developed a 3D printing technology that is one part 3D printer, and one part climbing robot. The “Koala 3D” printer prints and scales along an object as it goes, enabling the “additive manufacturing of objects without any size limitations.”
The Koala 3D printer can horizontally and vertically navigate the object that it is fabricating during production. To achieve this, researchers designed a robot that has a 3D printer head and a climbing system through the use of actuated clamps. A bottom clam sits underneath the printer’s body, while a top clamp has a range of motion that enables it to move between the top and bottom of the printer head.
Testing the system involved fabricating 11 test beams of various sizes, from 350 mm to 850 mm long. The team said they also use the system to fabricate smaller parts.
While the system appears successful, the team mentioned three primary issues in the development of their 3D printer. First, there is an issue with dropping after re-anchoring. Second, a structural oscillation occurs at high aspect ratios. Third, there is an issue with the starting alignment between the part in the base. However, the Koala 3D opens a door to greater design freedom.