3D Printed Aircraft Innovation

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

The aviation industry is developing in leaps and bounds, and has recently introduced a new innovative procedure that will add value to the future of aviation. A specialized printer has been used in various industries, such as in the design of machine components, parts for racing cars, and even medical implants, as it is able to print a 3D image of the specific item or object requested. Now this printer has been pushed to test its capabilities, and has proved to be successful in producing a 3D image of an unmanned aerial vehicle, which opens the doors to new horizons for aviation.

The first 3D structure is called the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft. The printout is extremely detailed and sophisticated, as it even includes hatches, control surfaces and its wings. The procedure uses various manufacturing techniques that include laser sintering, which has enabled the team to visually demonstrate the progress they have made in designing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The project, DECODE, is funded by EPSRC, and was printed out for viewing on an EOS EOSINT P730 Nylon Laser Sintering Machine. This machine is able to created items layer for layer, which means no fasteners are used, enabling the model to be fabricated without any additional tools within minutes, and can fabricate items from metal and plastic.

A miniature autopilot will be created for the aircraft that has a wing span of two meters and is electrically powered. It has an incredible top speed of almost a hundred miles an hour. This project has shown the aviation industry that there are various options open to them in the manufacturing of parts that could save time, as present techniques would have taken months to create the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that was unveiled by the Southampton University project.

It is evident that the 3D printers are filtering into various industries, with culinary students at Cornell University using their 3D food printer to create cakes and even NASA is investigating the viability of this technology to manufacture parts for their projects. It is foreseen that 3D printers will become common equipment in factories, along with foundries, milling machines and presses. And with the creation of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, 3D printers might become more popular as the aviation industry moves forward.

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