Jan 6, 2016 | By Alec

Of all the futuristic technologies you used to see in The Jetsons as a kid, the jetpacks were some of the most unrealistic and are understandably not commercially available yet. However, that could change in the near future with the help of 3D printing. With the help of 3D printer developers Airwolf 3D and their AXIOM 3D printer, JetPack Aviation have been developing what they call a true jetpack: light, compact and wearable. Their amazing JB-9 JetPack made its worldwide debut in New York back in November 2015, while the follow-up model JB-10 was developed much more quickly and more cost effective with the help of 3D printing. Those 3D printed parts will be on display at CES – which kicks off today.

Now some of you might say: but surely jetpacks already exist. And you’d be technically right. The first civilian jetpack, the RocketBelt, famously flew around during the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and was also used in various films. That RocketBelt was developed by the same people now working at JetPack Aviation, and have since said that the design used at the time wasn’t perfect. The RocketBelt was very large, heavy, and not very powerful. And as they say, a true jetpack should be compact, fit into the trunk of a car and be able to take a pilot thousands of feet into the air.

And that, in a nutshell, is what the new JetPack JB-10 will be capable of. As you can see in the clip below the JB-9 (piloted by David Mayman) was impressive and far more compact than anything seen before, but the JB-10 will be even more powerful – capable of flying more than 10,000 feet in altitude at speeds greater than 100 mph, with an endurance of about 10 minutes. Now that’s coming closer to the Jetson ideal.

As it’s developers say, 3D printing was a key technology in the development of the JB-10. It is the culmination of a design and testing process that took years. The problem was that it needed to be lightweight, stable, easy to handle and feature three axes of flight. While the design continued to improve, countless prototypes were made before their successful test flight. “We had been investigating more affordable options for rapidly prototyping our new JetPack fuel tank and teamed up with Airwolf 3D to print our tank on their AXIOM 3D printer with its large build volume,” stated lead designer, Nelson Tyler. “Airwolf 3D’s latest AXIOM 3D printer was the key enabling technology to allow us to rapidly prototype our new 3D Printed JetPack fuel tank prior to committing to actual tooling.”

It was especially cost effective. Making a master pattern for the JetPack tank, for instance, would cost between $5,000 and $12,000 when using a traditional 5-axis CNC machine (and modeling foam or aluminum). With the AXIOM 3D printer, however, costs were lowered to just $400. What’s more, the 3D printer’s excellent isothermal printing conditions inside the chamber and the Wolfbite adhesive ensured that large ABS prototype pieces never suffered from cracking or deformation – making the entire process far easier. For these types of projects, ABS is often used as it is more dimensionally stable than PLA.

Airwolf 3D, meanwhile, were more than happy to work on this exciting project. “We are thrilled to be working with JetPack Aviation to advance the future of transportation and proud that the AXIOM 3D printer was selected as the means to achieve JetPack’s rapid prototyping needs” company CEO Erick Wolf stated. While it’s not yet known when the JP-10 will make its on-screen debut, it will doubtlessly be spectacular.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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