3D printers are far from a perfect technology at this point, but one of their most glaring issues is that their printing capacity is limited to the size of the machines. The print head on a 3D printer can only travel so far, which is why moving it onto a wheeled platform that's completely mobile is a brilliant idea, and could be quite a leap for the technology.

The 3&Dbot, developed by a bunch of industrial designers at NEXT and LIFE, still needs a flat surface to work on, but the size of a part or object it can create is almost limitless—with a large enough area to work. There are some unique challenges to making a mobile 3D printer like this work, though, most important being the development of tracking systems that ensure its movements are precise enough to accurately recreate a 3D model. And that includes controlling the omni-directional wheels that give the attached printhead unlimited degrees of motion.

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But even the limited height of the 3&Dbot's printhead could be overcome through some clever additional 3D printing. Once a model became too tall for the robot to add layers to, it could easily 3D print a temporary raised structure around it to drive up onto and continue working. So in theory the tiny robot could churn out an entire house with enough plastic at its disposal, and a construction schedule that spanned a few years. [LIFE & NEXT via designboom]