Sep.14, 2013

Three student interns in the AFRL Discovery Lab program designed and created a custom 3D printed aircraft from a Makerbot Replicator 2X.

The program is a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Wright Brothers Institute and is hosted near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at Tec^Edge. The students, Nathan Kidder, Ben Rhoads, and Brian Jackson were tasked to make a fully functional aircraft with the help of 3D printing. The idea behind the project was that a plane could be quickly and cost effectively manufactured using 3D printing.

With two Makerbot Replicator 2X 3D printers at their disposal, the team designed and printed prototypes of their aircraft designs during the first five weeks of the program. They printed through five revisions before settling on an aircraft design they believed could fly.

The airframe of the their aircraft, called Disposable Miniature Air Vehicle (DMAV), is fully 3D printed using $16 worth of plastic. It has no internal reinforcements such as carbon rods or otherwise, making this aircraft unique compared to other FDM aircraft which depend on reinforcements for structural integrity.

On its first flight of the morning, the 1.5 pound aircraft plummeted into the ground. The second airplane, however with some modifications, landed multiple times without crashing.

"We were excited to finally see the plane fly and that it demonstrated low cost additive manufacturing as a viable option for producing aircraft," Nathan, the team lead, commented after the rounds of successful flight.

Watch the video below the DMAV 3D printed airplane flight testing.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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jd90 wrote at 9/17/2013 4:58:39 PM:

$16 worth of plastic? That's pretty heavy for an R/C airplane airframe. And that doesn't count the value of the machine time.

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