Sep 23, 2015 | By Tess

A group of students from Wentworth Institution of Technology (WIT) in Boston, MA have worked in teams to create fully functional additively manufactured Hexacopter drones, so named for their hexagonal shape.

The Hexacopter drone was the product of an assignment meant to bring together 65 students from several different faculties, such as industrial design, mechanical engineering and manufacturing studies. The students were tasked with creating a fully working hexacopter drone by incorporating six different manufacturing processes. Among these processes were CNC turning, CNC milling, resin casting, vacuum forming, laser cutting and 3D printing.

According to the students involved, 3D printing was the defining manufacturing process for the drone’s design for, as student Nathan Ouellete explains, “It offered a unique aspect to our design, where we were able to control something in three dimensions as opposed to just milling it in two dimensions. It offers you a whole new path to prototyping.”

The Wentworth Institution of Technology has put a strong focus on 3D printing within their curriculum in recent years, even launching a 3D printing course last fall.

As one student says of the experience, “Having an entire semester to learn about the processes of 3D printing – learning about the two technologies, the different printers and materials used – really prepared me to understand the capabilities of 3D printing and how extensive we could get.” The course, based on the free Stratasys 3D printing curriculum, was an enormous success and focused primarily on Stratasys’ FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technologies.

The Hexacopter drones utilized these two 3D printing technologies, and nearly all of the 3D printed elements of the drones (upwards of 95% of them) were printed on the Stratasys uPrint SE, an FDM technology printer using ABSplus thermoplastic, and the Objet30 3D printer, a rapid prototyping printer powered by PolyJet technology.

Stephen Chomyszak, an assistant professor at WIT and a mechanical engineer credits the use of 3D printing with maintaining a lightweight design for the Hexacopters, as well as helping to eliminate certain production and assembly steps that would have otherwise been necessary. For instance, additive manufacturing allowed the students to make custom designs that could fit with the electrical components without having to use extra hardware such as screws, brackets or fasteners.

For the prototyping as well, 3D printing allowed the team to design, print and test different models quite quickly to see what designs worked or didn’t. Nathan Ouelette praises the process saying, “To be able to design something and then immediately have it in front of you, you’re able to see what you did right, what you did wrong and how you can improve it. It’s something that you can’t do with most manufacturing processes particularly with this amount of detail.” In the end, out of the 11 teams who produced models for the Hexacopter drone, 10 were successful in their drone's flight.

In the video below you can see the final, and functional version of the Hexacopter drone as well as some of the students who designed and manufactured it. With the Wentworth Institute of Technology investing in its students as well as in the growing field of 3D printing technology, we have no doubt that these young and innovative minds will continue to do great things within the world of additive manufacturing.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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