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posted 19 October 2016 at 20:28:55

What would happen if you gave a 3D printer a 'brain'? Or rather, what would happen if you equipped a robot with artificial intelligence (AI) and a 3D printer?
Ai Build, a London-based start-up company, has put the question to the test by retro-fitting giant industrial robots with 3D printing guns and AI algorithms. And their tests seem to show that the outcome is machines that see, create and learn from their mistakes.

The company's CEO and founder, former architecture student Daghan Cam, attached foam 3D printing guns to the robotic arms of KUKA industrial robots and then programmed them to create intricate structures. They instantly discovered that the process was painfully slow.
'Our robots were blind. They take instructions from a computer and blindly execute them,' says Cam. 'If there's any problem, they don't notice and can't adapt.'
Cam and his team solved the problem by adding cameras to the robots and using machine vision algorithms to check the structures as they were printed.  
'The goal was to create a feedback loop between the physical environment and the digital environment,' says Cam. The robots could now spot defects and compensate for them in subsequent layers during printing. This sped up the process and print time was cut in half, saving material and cutting costs dramatically.  
Prior to carrying out the experiment, Cam had asked a competitor who didn't use AI to quote for the same 3D print job. The competition quoted a price of £25,500. Cam's 3D print gun-wielding AI robot completed it for just £150 and printed the structure as a single piece, rather than in multiple sections that would have had to be assembled after printing.

That was just the start. In Amsterdam last week, the company unveiled its 'Daedalus Pavilion' (pictured), a 5m x 5m x 4.5m structure that weighs 160kg and is 3D printed in 48 sections. Partnering Arup Engineers, Ai Build's pavilion took just 15 days to print using the Ai robot and its 3D print gun and cost £29,250.  

Although the stunning pavilion proves what Ai Build's technology can achieve, Cam now wants to focus on revolutionizing large-scale construction projects through 3D print. This is yet another very exciting development in the future of construction via 3D printing.

You can watch the KUKA robot in action at

Image: © Ai Build (