Normally we who follow the 3D printing world expect to see a (probably) beige printer-like box containing a steamy build chamber from which excellent 3D objects are extracted. But the R-O-B is a very different kind of additive "printer".
It's actually a full-scale industrial robot that's mounted inside a standard shipping container. The shipping container is dropped adjacent to the building site, and the side of the container swings open to reveal the R-O-B robotic arm. Then it begins to build.
Additive manufacturing in this case is a simple matter: the robotic arm merely picks up a standard block from its vast store, applies some cement and then carefully places (lays) the brick in the intended position. The process is repeated many times. Actually, an enormous number of times. Eventually the final structure emerges.
We're tickled by this radical approach, which is essentially the same as traditional 3D printing, except it's a lot bigger. And slower. But the interesting angle is that you can build some incredibly interesting structures that might be quite difficult for carbon-based bricklayers to attempt. At least we would find it tricky.
The video shows the R-O-B in place at New York City's Pike Street where it constructs an interesting wall over the course of some four weeks. The wall will be exhibited until July 2010. This is but one of several structures that it's built over the past year or so. The wall was devised by Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler using technology developed by ETH Zurich.
We're wondering what this might lead to, as the question of 3D printing buildings seems to come up from time to time. However, R-O-B is likely a bit too slow to build larger structures. Its build chamber, erm, "build reach" would have to be extended as well.