EADS (European aerospace and defence group) Innovation Works has taken a lead role in producing products with 3D printing technology. In this year's Farnborough Airshow, EADS Innovation Works is presenting the prototype of a portable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) produced by 3D printing.
The plane with a wingspan of approximately. 1.5 meters has been designed by students from the University of Leeds. Using 3D printing technology the students could optimize its structural and aerodynamic characteristics, such as the angle of incidence and the angle of twist of the wings in a relatively short time, "which would otherwise be difficult and expensive to realize for an aircraft of this scale." says EADS. With 3D printing, it is possible to produce several sets of – for example – wings tailor made for different missions at a reasonable price.
This plastic material UAV shown at Farnborough serves only for exhibition purposes and displays the design features made possible by 3D printing technology. It uses the EADS proprietary ScalmalloyRP material, which provides exceptional mechanical properties useful in the production of complexly shaped structures.
An metallic version UAV will be manufactured at EADS' Filton, UK ALM facility. using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology.
The principle is to "grow" parts from a fine powder of metal of metal (such as titanium, stainless steel or aluminium), nylon or carbon-reinforced plastics, rather than machined from a larger block. A part is designed on a computer, which then directs a high-powered laser at material in powder form, melting it into a solid shape, repetitively, layer by layer, until the desired part is completed.
Compared to a traditional, machined part, those produced by 3D printing are up to 65% lighter but still as strong as those would be, and the weight of an optimized wing spar could be reduced by as much as 80%. These parts can be applied to high-stress, safety critical aviation uses.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.
In March 2011 EADS produced world's first 3D-printed bike - Airbike. Made of high-strength nylon powder, the complete sections were built as one piece, including the wheels, bearings and axle. It is strong enough to replace steel or aluminium and requires no conventional maintenance or assembly.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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