One of the most troublesome aspects of 3D printing is that most machines have a relatively small build volume. There are 3D printers that can manufacture large objects in a single print cycle, but the machines themselves are huge. A new project being undertaken by Ben Peters of the MIT Media Lab could dramatically increase the size of 3D printer build volumes while simultaneously reducing the size of the printer itself.
Dubbed the SpiderBot, Peters describes his projects as “…a cable-suspended robotic gantry system that provides an easily deployable platform from which to print large structures…Cables from the robot are connected to stable points high in the environment, such as large trees or buildings. This actuation arrangement is capable of moving large distances without the need for more conventional linear guides, much like a spider does.”
Inspired by the SkyCams that are commonly used in sporting events the SpiderBot gives 3D printing a new platform from which it can expand the types of structures that the technology can create. However, there is a downside to using guide wires as opposed to more traditional 3D printing head guides. Since the entire SpiderBot system has to be supported by guide wires, lightweight substances are the only options for printing material. This means that cement, metal, or any other relatively dense material is out of the question for the time being.
In the future, stronger materials might be available that could expand the capabilities of the SpiderBot, but for now this machine will have to exist as an interesting and novel solution to expanding 3D printing build volumes.
Read More at Bengineering