In 2009 I started getting interested in the idea of making a UAV completely from rapid prototyping materials. I started out thinking I could just build a plastic plane, but quickly realised the materials were not stiff enough for creating wings that could take any kind of apreciable load. At the time I wanted to make a UAV 15-20 KGs in size for commercial use. I posted up a pic of a wing I had modelled on CAD to show the kind of thing I was trying to do.
Here is a pic of the first test pieces I have made using using metalized rapid prototypes. The plastic I have used has been difficult to cover in metal but I chose it for its high strength and hi temp resistance. I will be making some more test samples soon (as soon as I can afford it!) and hope to get the material properties tested in a lab...
The aim is to make a printable plastic part which can be treated with a low cost process to make thin walled parts with the strength of aluminium alloy, say 2024 but perhaps 25% lighter....The current test piece is lighter than its aluminim equivalent by a small ammount but I hope to refine the process to make it considerably lighter...
At the moment I have no hard data, but comparing the coated and uncoated parts shows incredible changes in stiffness from the plastic part to the plated ones. There have been published tests on similar RP parts that show they are 10-20 times stiffer than the plastic substrate...
I have been experimenting with rapid prototyping techniques and being able to produce a drone that is replicable through molds. I have used many different FDM processes and also have a laser cutter. If you are interested in working on a design for a fuselage and wings shoot me a message. I have a lot of experience with CAD as well as all the different RP processes and feel we can come up with a successful design with new types of materials and techniques.
Shouthampton University have been looking into this sort of thing. They have flow a UAV that has been made on a 3D printer:
I have seen the Southampton UAV its great and kudos to them for doing it, but I want to develop stiffer and stronger materials. Iam looking at using high temp resistant, engineering plastics which when coated are up to 10 times stiffer and stronger than the raw plastic. The designs I have made so far are all 1mm wall thickness or less and get their strength and stiffness from their geometry and coatings. The sample parts I have made are approx 30% lighter than the same part in aluminium. The coatings are relatively simple to process and for larger production runs should be relatively cheap.
I'd love to get my hands on a copy of his bird from Shouthampton University
That's is how our kids will built their drones- cool
I am imagining a community developed plane similar in concept to the one from the University of Shouthampton.
Modular in design – so if something breaks it can just be replaced (snapped in place)
Properly designed the “snap together points” could also act as a “Sollbruchstelle” to absorb energy and minimize damage in case of a crash.
Does anybody have an idea what it costs to 3D print a plane like the one from the University of Southampton (assuming you have the plans)?
Similar to ArduCopter or ArduPlane people from all over the world could contribute and at the push of the button order a copy of the plane, or modify it for their needs.
As a start it would probably make sense to design just a hull and expand from there.
I am playing with Google’s Sketchup but have a feeling it may not be sophisticated enough?
Did I mention I really do not like foam hulls ….