Oct 17, 2016 | By Alec

It’s a very common feature in most science fiction concepts: sentient homes that, like Iron Man’s Jarvis, take care of all your needs with a sassy attitude. But though smart technology is improving with leaps and bounds, it isn’t exactly cost-effective or applicable on a very large scale. London-based startup Ai Build is seeking to change that, and sees construction 3D printing as an key technology to make these type of smart homes affordable and possible. As a first step on a long road, they have just unveiled the 3D printed Daedalus Pavilion, which showcases the viability of their custom large scale 3D printing robot and learning algorithms.

The pavilion itself is very impressive, and was unveiled as part of the GPU Technology Conference in Amsterdam. A 5m by 5 m by 4.5m construction, it is large enough to house several coffee tables. But it also looks fantastic, like some sort of mesh butterfly, and was built using more than 160 kg of biodegradable filament from Formfutura. Consisting of 48 separate pieces, it was 3D printed in just three weeks using a custom KUKA industrial robot 3D printing setup.

But this achievement is even more remarkable for what it could lead to in the near future. For the London-based Ai Build is dreaming about next-gen construction, in which AI and robotics become indispensable. Their intentions thus transcend 3D printing, as Ai Build is seeking to create a home-hub prototype that provides smart, intuitive and natural home control. This teachable platform could be operated using voice or app control, and will learn from its inhabitants through a series of cameras and other sensors that make gesture and voice commands possible. “Currently a mobile app takes multiple steps to activate,” cofounder and CEO, Daghan Cam recently explained to Forbes. “You unlock your phone, you open the app, you tell it to turn on a specific light. This is more natural. Instead of using a mobile or a remote control, you use existing skills and natural language.”

Of course this future sounds great, but is extremely ambitious. Facilitating such a future not only requires revolutionary algorithms, but a very cost-effective approach as well. “It’s the biggest investment we’ve done and is what makes the device so expensive,” Cam explains. And that’s where 3D printing comes in, as a combination of 3D printing and injection molding using biodegradable plastics could provide a very cost-effective manufacturing platform. In fact, they are envisioning a future in which on-demand 3D printing services can provide architects and designers with an unprecedented range of construction opportunities.

The London-based startup has therefore been working hard to develop a custom and efficient large scale 3D printing platform using industrial robots and machine learning software. Especially the inclusion of the latter should enable them to overcome today’s biggest 3D printing limitation: production times. “It is very expensive or nearly impossible to 3D print large structures with today’s technology due to the small size and slow speed of 3D printers that are available on the market,” they say.

Right now, the company is looking at a very cost-effective and appealing 3D printing prototype. With a 3.2m x 2.4m x 2.8m build space, this robotic arm can 3D print very large modular structures with high resolution finishing opportunities, while a wide variety of PLA and ABS based materials are already on their radar. Through adaptable layer heights and extrusion thicknesses, as well as a customizable extrusion path (thanks to these 6-axis arms) a lot should become possible.

Much of this work has been achieved through an initial £100,000 seed fund, and a few months ago Cam was optimistic enough to look at a price range of less than £1,000 (approximately $1200 USD). Crowdfunding opportunities could them be used to generate enough money to fund final development. “We’d be mostly concentrating on making customers happy. We realize there are going to be unanticipated problems with the product so the strategy is to talk directly with customers about improvement then to focus on getting bigger,” he adds “Eventually the long-term vision of the company would be to change the construction industry by bringing artificial intelligence to the built environment.”

Much thus still needs to be done, but the Daedalus Pavilion is certainly a step in the right direction. To actually 3D print this structure, Ai Build teamed up with renowned developers Arup Engineers – known for the development of the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou. Together, they showcased just what 3D printing and Ai can do for construction, and used NVIDIA GPUs to run a combination of computer vision and deep learning algorithms to greatly improve the 3D printing speed and accuracy.

As a result, the pavilion was constructed at record speeds, and definitely showcases Ai Build’s technological potential. “We're tremendously excited to premiere "Daedalus Pavilion" at our first GTC in Europe. This collaboration between Ai Build and Arup is a strikingly tangible taste of how even established industries like construction will be transformed by artificial intelligence,” said Jack Watts, NVIDIA's Deep Learning Start-up Business Manager.

During construction Arup was mostly focused on creating a structurally sound pavilion, say Arup’s James Griffith and Henry Unterreiner. “Our structural engineering expertise, combined with the latest large scale 3D printing technology, has enabled us to create an elegant and structurally efficient form with an optimized distribution of material,” they said. “Digital manufacturing is becoming increasingly common in the construction industry. Arup is committed to help lead innovation in this area: using our expertise to aid the development of new technologies; ensuring benefits are seen by both the industry and by clients; and promoting the environmental benefits that digital fabrication could provide.”

While smart homes are thus not quite on the agenda yet, this pavilion certainly points in the right direction. After the conclusion of the Amsterdam event, the pavilion will be dismantled and returned to London, with future showcase events already planned.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Paul Denino wrote at 10/20/2016 3:12:27 PM:

this is pretty nis

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