3D Printed 737 UAV Takes Flight

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3D Printed 737 UAV

Once again Solid Concepts, the makers of the infamous 3D printed metal gun, have produced another amazing 3D printed product. Georgia based Area-I enlisted the help of Solid Concepts to create a 3D printed 737 scale model UAV using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). 3D printed parts include the fuel tank, ailerons, control surfaces and flaps.

SLS 3D Printing works via a bed of powdered nylon and a CO2 laser which sinters the nylon in consecutive layers until a final product is achieved. Before they began using Solid Concepts, Area-I hand-built PTERA (Prototype Technology Evaluation Research Aircraft) aircraft. “before we had Solid Concepts build the ailerons out of SLS it took us 24 man-hours,” says CEO of Area-I Nick Alley. “When we grew the ailerons with SLS, they were designed, built and assembled on PTERA within three days. SLS is easy to work with, installs quickly, is efficient and, from an aesthetic standpoint, produces parts that are gorgeous.”

Solid Concepts and Area-I incorporated all the hinges and mounting structures into the initial 3D printed build. This removed time consuming and costly post-processing. It also removed excess weight added by traditional methods.

“Additive manufacturing has completely changed the way we design aircraft,” says Alley. “We used to shy away from certain complex designs, opting for structures that are more basic. With additive manufacturing, we can now create even the most complicated designs. It has completely opened up design capabilities that we would not be able to make with any other manufacturing method.”

Anti-slosh baffles were designed and built directly into the inside of the fuel tank, which aided in balance and flight length. This would either be to hard or costly to do with traditional manufacturing processes but 3D printing can produce the anti-slosh baffles with ease.

Normally fuel tanks would be built out of steel or other metals, but Area-I was able to D Print PTERA’s tank with SLS and coat the inside of the tank with a special sealant resulting in a much faster turnaround and far lighter fuel tank.

About Solid Concepts:

Solid Concepts Inc. provides custom manufacturing solutions via additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, CNC machining, cast urethanes, injection molding and tooling. Since 1991, Solid Concepts has provided engineering expertise from multiple fields to bring success to new products in the aerospace, medical, consumer product industries and more. Capabilities in PolyJet, Stereolithography (SLA), Plastic and Metal Laser Sintering (SLS & DMLS), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), QuantumCast™ Cast Urethanes, CNC, Tooling and Injection Molding allow for low to high volume production of plastics, urethanes, and metals directly from design data, resulting in significant time and cost savings. ISO 9001 and AS9100 certifications.

Warning; 3D printers should never be left unattended. They can pose a firesafety hazard.