Aug 23, 2011
Comments Off on Taking aircraft from design to 100mph in just 7 days

Taking aircraft from design to 100mph in just 7 days

Early this August the world of 3d printing turned it sights to the UK’s Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, as the worlds first fully “printed” plane took flight, achieving a max speed of 100mph.

This new printed aircraft, known as SULSA, forms part of a wider project on cutting-edge maufacturing techniques at the Southhampton University. The team led by Jim Scanlan and Andy Keane belive that 3d printing will revolutionise the design and manufacture of uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAV’s, allowing for enhanced design, lower lead times and significant cost reductions over traditional methods.

Using 3d printing technology it was possible to for design team to take elements from some of the best ideas in aviation history such as the ultra low drag eliptical wing design of the Supermarine Spitfire and the strong geodesic airfrome of the Vickers Wellington bomber. With a £5000 budget the incorporation of these designs using traditional manufacturing techniques would have been cost prohibitive, however the use of laser sintering removed such cost constraints.

As 3d printing is based on additive technology no cutting or grinding of metal is required allowing vast design freedom. “With 3d printing we can go back to pure forms and explore the mathematics of airflow without being forced to put in straight lines to keep costs down” Keane explained. The design of the SULSA took a mere two days with production of final parts taking  five days to complete.

Watch the SULSA’s maiden flight below.

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