We've written about this before, but I'm not sure everyone's seen the video. It's a really impressive production process. No doubt heavier than foam and possibly balsa, but that will improve over time with new materials.
Not world first.
There has been far more interesting developments performed in Sweden at Linköping University for some years in this area, see for example the research of David Lundström:
- Not only do they 3D-print the aircraft, but they optimize the structure and aerodynamics based on available components!
I saw a presentation of their research about a year ago, and was really impressed by how different batteries and motor combinations yielded different airframes. Then they would just print the structures needed and fly - even the control laws (and -code) needed to fly was given by the optimization.
@Paul - Just on your comment on the elliptical wing planform; I'd hardly call them unsuccessful. There have been several production aircraft that used it that come to mind. The primary difficulty has always been the cost of mass producing it. However, it is recognized as having an optimal lift distribution for many applications. If I were just making a small run of planes for some purpose and could do an elliptical planform as easily as any other, I'd use it.
Odds are if you are able to control your own stepper motors using a microcontroller, you're probably already able to create your own 3D printer. :) (Throw a laser in for added points) That's the reality as I see it these days. Most of us just need to get down to work and start hacking hardware and something will emerge.. but I have lots of good excuses ;-)
Hey just wanted to say, is it the elliptical wing we are regarding as special or its the laminar flow wing. The spitfire etc was special i think because it had a laminar flow wing, if you look, the thickest part of the wing is actually about halfway back, not the usual one third.
The wind breaks away further back down the wing, reducing drag and creating a very fast wing. It also very thin and flush rivited. Both hard to prduce in light aircraft.
GA aircraft have not progressed much above 100-200 kts, even though small piston fighters were exceeding those speeds long ago. Thin, laminar, flush riveted wings are still expensive to manufacture.
It had both I believe but they reduce drag in different ways. "laminar flow wing" is about the air flowing over the wing while "elliptical wing" fights a wing tip vortex from forming I believe
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