3D printed drones

3d printed drone

(From Daily Mail) Following the news Facebook has become the latest firm to enter the drone market, researchers in the UK have successfully created and tested a low-cost craft – built entirely using a 3D printer.

Engineers at University of Sheffield developed the prototype 1.5m-wide unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) using a cheap, common technique that builds objects using layers of plastic.

Drones are traditionally built by large manufacturers, due to the cost and complexity involved, and this breakthrough could make the crafts more common place, and even disposable.

The UAV completed a test flight as a glider, flown by researchers from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The manufacturing cost of the drone has not yet been released, but its researchers have said that it is significantly lower than those of large drone-dedicated companies.

In theory it would be possible to build models similar to the drone at home, on 3D printers such as Maplin’s £700 Kelleman K8200 model.

Engineers at the university are now developing an electric fan propulsion system that will make the drone easier to control.

They then plan to develop the craft so it can be guided by GPS or camera technology, controlled by an operator wearing first person-view goggles.

Sheffield’s drone was created for a research project looking at 3D printing of complex designs.

It was built using a technique called fused deposition modelling (FDM), and is made of a polymer called thermoplastic.

FDM is slower than other printing methods, including selective laser sintering (SLS), which uses lasers to fused particles together.

However, by not using lasers, it makes the FDM process much cheaper – although the actual costs depend on the materials used, the size of the craft and the printer used.

Additive manufacture development engineer Mark Cocking said: ‘By understanding the capability of the FDM process and associated software, we were able to manipulate the design to contain a number of unique features as well as preventing build deformation.

All parts required for the airframe can be combined onto a single build within the Fortus 900 machine, taking less than 24 hours with ABS-M30 material.’

Thermoplastics work out at approximately £5.50 ($9) per 2kg bag, although prices vary.

Low production costs might lead to the printing of 3D unmanned aircraft that could be disposable and sent on one-way flights for delivery, search or reconnaissance purposes, said the engineers.

(read the full story)


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