Jul 15, 2016 | By Alec

The Russian Trade Fair Innoprom 2016 was held in Ekaterinburg this week, which featured a remarkable eye-catching 3D printing innovation: an entirely 3D printed scouting drone. While that drone was a huge attraction, the undisputed show-stealer at Innoprom must have been the complete Ansat Helicopter that was on display. Made by Rostec-backed Russian Helicopters, it is the first Russian-made helicopter to feature 3D printed parts. Specifically, several crucial mechanical components, such as parts of the steering controls, were 3D printed.

It’s a remarkable achievement, that just shows that 3D printing is becoming increasingly common in the Rostec portfolio. This huge state-backed Russian corporation holds together 663 entities and 13 holding companies in a single, development-boosting organization with an eye on high tech innovations. It especially includes a lot of defense organizations. As a result, Russian 3D printing solutions often appear with Rostec backing, such as this 3D printed assault rifle and this 3D printed multipurpose amphibious drone. Russian Helicopters also enjoys Rostec backing, as does the Russian defense firm that showcased the entirely 3D printed scouting drone at Innoprom 2016.

But despite being part of Rostec, Russian Helicopters is actually one of the leading helicopter manufacturers in the world, and the only one in Russia. Right now, the company manages five helicopter factories in Russia, all monitored from their Moscow headquarters. Of course the Russian government is one of their premier clients (as well as various major Russian companies), but they also deliver to numerous other governments around the world. Over 2015, they shipped a total of 212 helicopters.

But the company is also working hard to innovate, and these 3D printed components are a part of that new focus. Of course, most of the helicopter was made with conventional production techniques, but that does not make this achievement any less impressive. As the company revealed, they focused on 3D printing non-military parts for the Ansat helicopter, meaning these parts won’t play a crucial role in combat situations.

Of course several components of the steering control were 3D printed, of which the tail rotor control slider was the most impressive. In fact, the Russian developers showcased three versions: one made with conventional machining, and two bionic alternatives made from aluminum and titanium – both 3D printed using SLS 3D printing. Both parts are, its engineers say, superior to the conventional component because they way just half as much. Also on display were various other components, including hollow lightweight door handles, which were 3D printed in aluminum.

As the company’s Deputy General Director for Production and Innovation Andrey Shibitov explained, these parts are part of the logical next step in innovation. “Additive technology is one of the fastest growing areas in aircraft production right now,” he said at Innoprom. “3D printing radically alters the way we produce parts, and it’s a worldwide trend. Helicopters of Russia intends to actively implement 3D printing for mass production and prototyping of helicopters.”

The company further revealed, this new drive to implement 3D printing in the production of helicopters is also fully in accordance with the ambitions of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. As they say, they are envisioning reducing the weight of machined helicopter parts by up to 40 percent. The Russian engineers also believe that 3D printing could significantly reduce the production and prototyping times for parts, and lead to more efficient constructions through the introduction of complex shapes. It looks like airplanes aren’t the only vehicles to a benefit from 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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