First 3-D Printed UAV Takes Flight
|SULSA is the world's first|
An airplane that can be snapped together without tools may not seem like the sturdiest of aircraft, but the SULSA, a 3D printed' aircraft from Southampton University has already flown its first successful flight.
The unmanned aerial vehicleâ??s (UAV ) entire structure has been printed using 3-D laser sintering; everything from its wings to its integral control surfaces and access hatches. The aircraft has a wingspan of two meters and can travel at speeds of up to 100 milers per hour.
Researchers believe that this new method could revolutionize aircraft construction. The process allows a designer to create shapes and structures that would normally involve costly traditional manufacturing techniques.
This technology allows a highly tailored aircraft to be developed from concept to first flight in days. Using conventional materials and manufacturing techniques, such as composites, this would normally take months. Furthermore, because no tooling is required for manufacture, radical changes to the shape and scale of the aircraft can be made with no extra cost.
According to Jim Scanlan, one of the projects leaders, "The flexibility of the laser sintering process allows the design team to re-visit historical techniques and ideas that would have been prohibitively expensive using conventional manufacturing.
SULSA is part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded project, which is employing the use of leading edge manufacturing techniques, such as laser sintering, to demonstrate their use in the design of UAVs.