Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s a CoLiDo 3D printer attached to a drone!

We are always fascinated to hear of the many and varied uses our 3D printers are put to by inventive individuals, but we believe this one really does raise the bar – a printer as part of a remote road repair solution!

A team at University of Leeds, is designing a drone platform that is capable of finding cracks in roads and repairing them using an asphalt 3D printing nozzle. This will prevent those cracks from developing into potholes. The platform is to be developed further to help repair potholes as well as perform preventive maintenance on cracks.

At the heart of this incredible device is a CoLiDo Delta 1315 3D printer.

Research Fellow in the University’s School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Dr Bilal Kaddouh, explains: “Having developed the asphalt nozzle in the lab we needed a robotic arm platform, with accurate position control, on which we could install the nozzle for demonstration and proof of concept purposes.

“We decided to use an off-the-shelf 3D printer and heavily modify it to reduce prototyping time. The printer had to have a fixed printing bed, a moving nozzle, exposed interfacing board and a space for material and sensors around the nozzle. The Delta met those requirements and was also physically suitable for the application as it is easy to modify, fits under the drone, is easy to interface with- using G-codes – and is of relatively low cost.

“The printer has performed well so far, better than we expected actually, and has certainly helped in proving the concept.”

The University’s project is ongoing and half-way through the development phase. New generations of nozzles and arms are now being worked on. The next phase will include designing an arm with large operation space, that is suitable for the needs of the road repair. The team will also look at perfecting the crack identification and repair method using the developed asphalt 3D printing technology.

See the road repair drone in action here

Image courtesy of University of Leeds