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Lightweight 3D-printed parts on drones ‘enabling longer flights’

Professional Engineering

Stock image. 3D-printed parts can enable higher energy efficiency and longer flights from drones (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image. 3D-printed parts can enable higher energy efficiency and longer flights from drones (Credit: Shutterstock)

Additive manufacturing (AM) is enabling longer drone flights thanks to its ability to print lightweight parts with structures that conventional manufacturing techniques cannot create, according to an AM expert.

The many variations of the manufacturing technique have countless applications in the design and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), said Matt Jones, senior application engineer at Stratasys, at the Aerospace and Defence webinar series this morning (30 November) – from prototyping and manufacturing, all the way through to repairs for military drones on the battlefield.

Huge growth is expected in the field in the coming years, said Jones during “Additive manufacturing for drone manufacture and repair”. Stratasys works with many drone manufacturers, which use its five photopolymer platforms.

The weight-reduction possibilities with AM open up many applications, he said. It can produce ‘honeycomb’ style structures instead of solid, filled parts for example. It also enables a high degree of design optimisation.

This can enable higher energy efficiency and longer flights. “It’s a lighter weight device or item that you’re producing, so you don’t need as much power to power the device, and if you can shave a few grams off here and there, or reduce the wall thickness of the housing, or something along those lines... in my opinion it would definitely improve the lifetime that an item, or the longevity of the time it can stay up doing something,” said Jones.

Stratasys’ GrabCAD software can make AM lightweighting even easier, he added, because you can use native CAD instead of STL files. Different faces and bodies in a printed structure can be given different properties – a solid outer shell with a sparse inner section, for example, or changing wall thicknesses within a section.

The session, which included a number of case studies, is now available to watch on demand here.

Navigate a turbulent future by attending Aerospace & Defence (28 – 30 November). Register for FREE today

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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