First Printed Aircraft

Laser sintering is a process that uses a high powered laser beam to fuse together powdered particles of glass, ceramic, plastic or metal, in additive layers until a 3D object is created. In this case, laser sintering of nylon was used to create a flying model aircraft known as the SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft). SULSA is an electric powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a 2 meter wingspan.

Southampton engineers fly the world’s first ‘printed’ aircraft – [soton.ac.uk]

Engineers at the University of Southampton have designed and flown the world’s first ‘printed’ aircraft, which could revolutionise the economics of aircraft design.

The SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) plane is an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) whose entire structure has been printed, including wings, integral control surfaces and access hatches. It was printed on an EOS EOSINT P730 nylon laser sintering machine, which fabricates plastic or metal objects, building up the item layer by layer.

3D printing: The world’s first printed plane – [newscientist.com]

The promise of 3D printing has finally taken off with the development of a drone that takes just a week to create

Under darkening skies on a grass airstrip in the UK’s Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, I am watching half a dozen aeronautical engineers rushing to assemble an uncrewed aircraft before the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are hoping to show how 3D printing will revolutionise the economics of aircraft design – by flying the world’s first fully “printed” plane.

Led by Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan of the University of Southampton, the team believes that 3D printing will soon allow uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAVs to go from the drawing board to flight in a matter of days. No longer, they say, will one design of UAV be repeatedly manufactured on a production line. Instead, designers will be able to fine-tune a UAV for each specific application – whether it be crop spraying, surveillance or infrared photography – and then print a bespoke plane on demand.

World First: 3D Printing – First Flight of Fully Printed Aeroplane (UAV/drone by Laser Sintering) – [youtube.com]

How the 3D Printed Aircraft Will Revolutionize Aircraft Design Economics.. – [industryleadersmagazine.com]

However, the world’s first 3D printed aircraft, designed and flown by engineers at the University of Southampton, promises to be a landmark development with the potential of revolutionizing the economics of aircraft design.

With its entire structure, including wings, integral control surfaces and access hatches all having been printed on an EOS EOSINT P730 nylon laser sintering machine, which fabricates plastic or metal objects, through a successive layering technique, the SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) plane has been designed to function as an unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

SULSA is part of the EPSRC-funded DECODE project, which is employing the use of leading edge manufacturing techniques, such as laser sintering, to demonstrate their use in the design of UAVs.

SEE ALSO:
3D Printer Demonstration
Additive Manufacturing
Center for Bits and Atoms
Hyperlocal Manufacturing
Printing a Car
Printed Gloves
Printing Food
A Surplus of Abundance
A Factory That Can Make Anything

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