Virginia-based Aurora Flight Services, a company specializing in advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in partnership with 3D printing solutions company StrataSys, has developed the world’s first jet-powered, 3D printed aircraft.
With speeds topping 150 mph, this is no ordinary aircraft. The 33-pound lightweight craft also has a 9-foot wingspan and is made up using 80% 3D-printed parts.
According to Dan Campbell, an Aerospace Engineer at Aurora Flight Services, the UAV is the most complex drone of its kind precisely due to the parts involved in making up the aircraft. The printed materials include metal, nylon and UV-resistant thermoplastic.
A primary goal for us was to show the aerospace industry just how quickly you can go from designing and 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.
With the aircraft, 3-D printing firm Aurora cites boundless design freedom and the ability to improvise design without being encumbered by traditional manufacturing as legitimate reasons for the airline industry to look into additive manufacturing. In a blog post, the company also claimed the halving of design and build time compared to traditional methods.
The printing system pioneered by Stratasys already has a client in Airbus, with the French aircraft maker using a Stratasys printing system to produce over 1,000 flight parts for its A350 XWB aircraft which completed its production run toward the end of 2014.
The plane manufacturer claimed the printed material used for its aircrafts is compliant with flame, smoke and toxicity regulations in the aircraft’s interior while adding that the lighter parts of the printed material helps “substantially reduce production time and manufacturing costs.”
The UAV is currently being showcased at this year’s Dubai International Air Show.
Images from Stratasys.