Nov 9, 2015 | By Alec

Stratasys has long since been synonymous with 3D printing quality, but we are still surprised by many of the projects they are working on. And at the Dubai Airshow, they again revealed a truly remarkable 3D printing achievement. While there are plenty of 3D printed drones to be found online, a team of engineers from Aurora Flight Sciences and Stratasys have developed a 3 meter wide version that is 80% 3D printed, is very light and is even capable of reaching breakneck speeds of 150mph. To the best of our knowledge, this is a world record in the field of 3D printed drones.

Those are some truly impressive statistics. Furthermore, the final demonstration aircraft on display in Dubai weighs as little as 15 kg (33 lb.) and is the result of a collaboration of flight engineering experts from Aurora Flight Sciences and Stratasys’ top of the range 3D printers. As Aurora’s Aerospace Research Engineer Dan Campball revealed, this impressive drone met all the targets initially set. ‘A primary goal for us was to show the aerospace industry just how quickly you can go from designing to building to flying a 3D printed jet-powered aircraft. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest, fastest, and most complex 3D printed UAV ever produced,’ he says. For those of you who’ve never heard of them, Aurora is a developer of advanced aerospace vehicles operating out of Manassas, VA, Bridgeport WV, and Columbus, MS, with a Research and Development Center in Cambridge, MA.

Stratasys’ own research developers are also very pleased with the results. ‘This is a perfect demonstration of the unique capabilities that additive manufacturing can bring to aerospace,’ says Aerospace & Defense Senior Business Development Manager Scott Sevcik. ‘This meant using different 3D printing materials and technologies together on one aircraft to maximize the benefits of additive manufacturing and 3D print both lightweight and capable structural components.’ Stratasys provided Aurora with the 3D printing solutions necessary to create a stiff, lightweight structure that is mission specific.

What’s more, they said that 3D printing enabled cost-effective customization of the UAV while cutting build time by up to 50 percent. ‘Stratasys 3D printing technology easily supports rapid design iterations that led to a dramatically shortened timeline from the initial concept to the first successful flight,’ Campbell said. ‘Overall, the technology saw us cut the design and build time of the aircraft by 50 percent.’

The Stratasys’ flagship FDM 3D printing technology was used during 3D printing of the structure itself, which they said enabled to production of an enclosed, structurally sound hollow vehicle. Other high quality 3D printing techniques were used for other parts, Sevcik revealed. ‘In addition to leveraging FDM materials for all large and structural elements, we utilized the diverse production capability of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to produce components better suited to other technologies. We elected to laser sinter the nylon fuel tank, and our thrust vectoring exhaust nozzle was 3D printed in metal to withstand the extreme heat at the engine nozzle,’ he said. ‘Because Stratasys is able to produce parts that meet the flame, smoke, and toxicity requirements set by the FAA, ULTEM has become the 3D printing material of choice for many of our aerospace customers for final production applications.’

But aside from being an impressive 3D printing project, this drone is also groundbreaking for being a cost and fuel effective, Stratasys argues. ‘Whether by air, water or on land, lightweight vehicles use less fuel. This enables companies to lower operational costs, as well as reduce environmental impact. In addition, using only the exact material needed for production is expected to reduce acquisition cost by eliminating waste and reducing scrap and recycling costs,’ the Stratasys’ development manager added.

This fantastic and innovative drone can still be seen in the special 3D printing pavilion at the Dubai International Airshow (stand 206) until 12 November. For those of you unable to make it to Dubai, check out the clip of the 3D printed UAV in action below.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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