Flying drones with 3D printers attached to their body: it was only a matter of time until the two technologies met. Such a thing now exists, although we’re not quite sure it’s earned its printing qualification yet. Developed by a team at the Imperial College London, the “3D printing Micro Aerial Vehicle” is a quad-copter that carries two chemicals that create polyurethane foam when mixed. Scientists say the foam can be molded to create non-complex structures or repair components, making the drone especially useful in hard-to-reach areas.
It’s almost like someone played buzzword bingo in the creation of the flying 3D printer drone, but it could have some pretty cool applications in the real world. Created by a team led by Dr Mirko Kovac of the Imperial College of London’s Department of Aeronautics, it’s inspired by birds. More specifically, it’s inspired by a bird called the swiftlet, which uses saliva to build its nests. The saliva, once in place, hardens, becoming a safe home for the birds. Dr Kovac’s system, mounted on a quad- or hexacopter, works in a similar fashion. Rather than the traditional plastic extruder, the “printer” consists of cartridges containing two separate chemicals. When these are mixed together by the printing module, which sprays them at the target, they form a polyurethane foam.