Lightweight 3D printing takes to the skies

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
November 5, 2011

The uses for unmanned aerial vehicles are increasing all of the time:no longer are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) limited to high tech drones used by the world’s most elite armed forces, they are increasingly being used by the police and even photographers.

UAVs are still expensive though, the demand is low enough still and the designs for each user bespoke enough that they do not warrant mass production techniques. What has bought down the cost drastically though is using a 3D printing service to print out parts.

An Australian company have started using a 3D printing service to manufacturer lightweight parts for their Cyberquad UAV;previously the company were using fiber-glass to make their crafts that can take off and land vertically and are powered by electric motors.

Using fiber-glass is expensive, it is expensive because it is time consuming and so takes a lot of man hours and it is expensive because of the materials themselves. Now though it is as simple as sending a design to print and waiting for the parts to be made: they are of course as light weight if not lighter than fiber-glass. The SLS production 3D printers used for their 3D printing service are able to use SLS additives that create tough but lightweight parts”: just what is needed for these craft.

These UAVs are fantastically useful for the likes of police and coastguards: they can use them to catch criminals, for search and rescue and various other day to day jobs. Many of these jobs would otherwise involve a helicopter that is expensive and in certain areas such as built up areas this could be dangerous. The Cyberquad normally beams back video or still images, though variations may perform other tasks including images from infra red cameras. The fact the cost of these CyberquadUAVs is coming down means that police and other services can afford more and increase their effectiveness.

Being 3D printed once a design has been created as a 3D CAD file the manufacturer can easily print more as and when they are demanded: this means there is no need to keep a large stock of parts of finished items in order to bring manufacturing costs down and means the space needed to run such a business is bought right down.

The lightweight materials that the Cyberquad is made of are just one of the developments in 3D printing service materials; rather than detailed but often flimsy or unsuitable plastics printers from different manufacturers can now print in a variety of materials. Materials used include metal parts made from titanium dust and even circuit boards can be printed. Full color items including those with detailed designs are also now possible saving further time in the manufacturing process. With it possible to now make items with 3D printing that are already assembled the production line too is becoming shorter, quicker and less expensive all of the time: primarily for items such as the Cyberquad that are made by small manufacturers in small numbers.

You may also like...