Will 3D Printers Be Moving From Your Desk to the Streets?

Large pot holePotholes can cause substantial amounts of damage to vehicles, and the recent temperamental weather rapidly changing from warm to cold is only increasing their frequency.

In order to expedite the repair, some organizations are trying to find cheaper and quicker ways to repair poor road conditions. The city of Council Bluffs, IA, for instance, is implementing a new system to actually recycle its damaged streets.

Local ABC News affiliate KETV reports that the Council Bluffs Public Work Department wanted the machine not only to save money, but also as an attempt at environmental conservation.

“It’s our way of thinking green, recycling the asphalt,” Noel said. “We grind the pile up and then we throw it in the machine, cook it, then we make our asphalt,” manager of Streets and Sewers Jeremy Noel said.

Public works expects the recycling machine to have lasting effects on the financial state of the city by saving anywhere from $90 to $95 on every ton of concrete. Not to mention that for every dollar invested in maintaining roads and bridges, at least six dollars are saved in full on reconstruction costs.

And while the Council Bluffs concrete recycling machine is an enormous step forward in road repair technology, Popular Science reports that a Harvard graduate, Robert Flitsch, has taken things a step further by inventing a 3D-printing robot designed to repair potholes.

Flitsch’s small wheeled Addibot, like other desktop 3D printers, uses raw materials to layer by layer build up surfaces.

However, what sets the Addibot apart from other 3D-printing technologies is its mobility.

“One of the main limitations with 3D printers is you typically have it printing inside this box, and you can really only print objects of the size of the work space you’re printing in,”said Flitsch, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer. “If you take additive manufacturing implements and make them mobile, you can print objects of arbitrary size.”

The Addibot is able to be driven via remote control and is even able to steer itself.

Beneath the chassis of the Addibot is an array of nozzles that would dispense materials required to repair a variety of surfaces.

Being a longtime hockey player, Flitsch initially tested his prototype by layering near freezing water on hockey rinks to flatten out the ice.

However, laying down tar is far more complex and still requires much research and testing on Flitsch’s part. Between keeping the tar at a high enough heat to be manageable, as well as finding a troubleshoot for dust entering and disrupting the mechanism, there are a number of factors that still need to be resolved.

Flitsch hopes to overcome these issues by gaining further funding to create more prototypes that dispense different materials.

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