Professor Mark J. Perry's Blog for Economics and Finance
Saturday, July 30, 2011
World's First Flight of a Fully 3D Printed Airplane
About three weeks ago, I featured two amazing videos of "3D Printers" on this CD post. There's another amazing video above of the world's first flight of a fully "3D printed airplane." Here's a report from Gizmag:
"One of the biggest selling features for 3D printers is the fact that you can just whip up a design using CAD software on your computer, then create a physical copy of it to try out - no special factory tooling required. Well, in order to illustrate the potential of the technology for the aviation industry, engineers from the University of Southampton have just designed and flown the world's first "printed" aircraft. The entire structure of the unmanned air vehicle (UAV) was created using an EOS EOSINT P730 nylon laser sintering machine, which builds up plastic or metal parts through a successive layering technique.
The plane is named SULSA, for Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft. Once printed, the various parts of its body could simply be snapped together in a matter of minutes, without the use of tools. The resulting electric aircraft has a two-meter wingspan, an autopilot, and a top speed of almost 100 mph. In cruise mode, it is said to be almost silent.
According to the Southampton researchers, it would normally take months to go from an initial aircraft concept to a flying prototype - using the laser sintering process, it could instead just take days. Because no production tooling is required, it also costs nothing to make changes to the finished aircraft's design, or to experiment with swapping in different parts."