There have been a number of 3D-printing robots rolled out lately that can squirt out a house, but Tecnalia in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) has come up with one that pays attention to what it's doing. Called Cogiro, it is billed as the first cable-driven robot that can print large structural parts or even small buildings on site while monitoring if the work is drying properly.

At first glance, Cogiro looks less like a robot and more like a giant square frame measuring 15 x 11 x 6 m (50 x 36 x 20 ft) with the name of a Japanese movie monster. The frame houses a network of cables and pulleys that support a central working head that can move in three different planes and point in three different directions. Originally, this was used to study such tasks as how a cable-driven robot can move pallets about a warehouse, but now it has expanded into the building trade.

For the latest demonstrations, Cogiro has been fitted with an extruder head that allows it to squirt out a clay-like material under the direction of a CAD file to create complex shapes or even buildings in situ thanks to the ability of the robot to be erected directly over a construction site. According to Tecnalia, this allows the robot to print items with a high degree of precision and rigidity over large areas.

But the clever thing about Cogiro isn't just that it prints, but it also watches what it's doing. Using thermal sensors, it monitors how well the material is drying and setting, so it can not only see how well the work is coming along, but also avoid laying down material on foundations that haven't dried yet.

Tecnalia says that the next step for Cogiro will be to adapt it to handle a cement-based material instead of clay. When mature, the company sees the technology as a straightforward, low maintenance, inexpensive means of bringing robotic 3D printing to building and maintaining curtain walls and other construction work, as well as in aerospace industries, shipbuilding, nuclear power plants, and alternative energy installations.

A prototype of Cogiro will be exhibited at the BBConstrumat fair next month.

The video below shows Cogiro in action.

View gallery - 5 images