Thing is, the future is now.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a new solar powered robot that can move autonomously, and sprays foam or concrete from a printer head attached to its movable arm. This amazing bot actually recently printed an open dome, sort of an igloo with no roof, in just 13 hours by using a building foam that expands and sets in just 30 seconds. The final building was 12 feet high and 15 meters wide!
The robot uses renewable energy and various tools such as a foam insulation gun, a "thermoplastic extruder" that expels melted plastic, a welding attachment, and even a bucket for picking materials like ice and dirt. With these, the robot could be soon used to remote places like Mars or the Moon where it can build structures from utilizing immediate materials around it and without any human assistance.
"If we're going to places like Mars, it'd be very difficult to accommodate the amount of construction material you'd need to ship out on a rocket," said Steven Keating, one of the authors of a paper. "We definitely need to use local resources on the Moon and Mars to fabricate things like landing pads."
But don't get too excited just yet for there is still a lot of work to be done. The batteries take a while to charge with the solar panels and last for only eight hours. Printing with ice and dirt should also be improved, although the MIT team made progress with these problems, Keating said. "Our whole concept is around a mobile-system that's self-sufficient, which means it can get its own energy, its own materials, and can be autonomously controlled using environmental data," Keating explained.
For now, the robot should fit into current construction processes here on Earth. "We have a system using construction materials that are already widely trusted, and a technique that integrates into existing construction workloads," he explained.