Some of our greatest technologies we ever invent seem to eventually merge with yet another great technology to create something more powerful. In the last few years, we’ve seen big data start to merge with the ubiquitous cloud in order to provide more accurate information on what’s hidden in every company database. And while those things are all internal, you also see technological merges with tangible technology. That’s starting to lead to yet another technological revolution that is the combination of drones and 3D printing.
As the cloud and big data were the most talked about technologies in the last couple of years, the next two years will be endless discussions about the dangers and benefits of drones. While that’s on the horizon, 3D printing is already being analyzed everywhere in the media, despite still on the cusp of being a household endeavor. One company, though, has already managed to combine a drone with a 3D printer in a way that could help repair complex engineering problems in buildings, plus aid in disposing of toxic wastes.
When you picture a drone with a 3D printer, though, you probably envision one of those desktop 3D printers somehow strapped onto a drone large enough to accommodate the weight. It turns out that 3D printers can be designed much smaller and in more efficient shapes when designed for other uses. In this case, a team out of the Imperial College of London managed to create a 3D printer on a drone by simply installing a printing module that emanates a mixture of polyurethane.
This particular drone is actually a quadcopter to provide steadier aerodynamics when going inside a structure to solve a problem. Using the printing module, the release of polyurethane foam hardens on particular structural surfaces for uses the world is going to need around the corner.
Dealing with Nuclear Waste and Structural Issues
While we haven’t had any major nuclear disasters in the world for a while, what would happen if a terrorist attack happened in a building or other location? Drones would show their worthwhileness for the first time and perhaps eliminate all the images of them invading our privacy or having collisions. Using a quadcopter drone, the attached 3D printer can apply that hardened polyurethane onto a contaminated surface and lift it out of a location without any human intervention.
It’s an example of how the combination of two technologies can eliminate the risk of human beings being hurt in strongly contaminated areas following a disaster. Beyond that, however, is the process of our nation’s older buildings starting to fail structurally, especially in earthquake country.
In my own hometown, a building that housed a bus mall and office space for a number of years closed down temporarily because cracks were found in the internal structure. This was due to just architectural error when first built, though it also gave fair warning to other older buildings and how they’d hold up if we ever had a major earthquake.
With newer buildings in America frequently built to withstand earthquakes, many older buildings still aren’t. One reason is because making reinforcements is too expensive and more time-consuming due to the engineering complexities. Yet, a drone with a 3D printer could technically take care of all these issues, including reinforcing areas that engineers can’t usually get access to.
Now we’ll have to wait and see whether this drone/3D printer merge comes to America to help in making structural repairs so much more affordable and easier. Drones need something soon that will get them on the good side of Americans before we all disown them for being the new sky litter rather than fitting into precarious places to help save our lives.