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Drones fitted with 3D printers solve UK pothole problem Leave a comment

Drones fitted with Derbyshire firm’s 3D printers could help solve UK pothole problem
Printing technology made by a Derbyshire firm is playing a key role in a project that could one day see potholes repaired by drones.

Print-Rite Europe, based in Amber Drive, Langley Mill, develops and manufactures a range of printing products, including 3D printers.

Now, students at the University of Leeds have attached one of Print-Rite’s products – a Colido Delta 3D printer – to a drone capable of finding cracks potholes and repairing them using an asphalt 3D printing nozzle.

And not only will the drones repair existing potholes, they will also be able to find and fill cracks in the road – repairing them before they develop into potholes.

The drones are being developed as part of a £4.2 million national infrastructure research project to create “self-repairing cities”.

The University of Leeds has formed a research consortium for the project which includes engineers and faculty from University College London, the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham.

The drones are fitted with 3D printers developed and manufactured by Print-Rite Europe (Image: University of Leeds)
The drones are fitted with 3D printers developed and manufactured by Print-Rite Europe (Image: University of Leeds)

Launched in 2015, the five-year project is now at its halfway stage – and the drones will initially be pioneered in Yorkshire.

Researchers working on the project said they aim to deploy the robots during the night as to avoid heavy amounts of traffic. They believe repairing road damages at an early stage using this method will minimise road congestion as well as costs of road closures and manual labour.

The next phase of the project 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.

Dr Bilal Kaddouh, research fellow at the university’s School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “We decided to use an off-the-shelf 3D printer and heavily modify it to reduce prototyping time.

The drones can identify cracks in the road and fill them in (Image: University of Leeds)
The drones can identify cracks in the road and fill them in (Image: University of Leeds)

“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 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.”

As well as roads, the project is also exploring other possible applications for the drones – including the repair of hard to access places, such as roofs.

In a statement, Print-Rite Europe said: “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.”

Quoted from: https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/business/drones-fitted-derbyshire-firms-3d-1793695#ICID=OffSiteVideo

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