Engineers at the University of Southampton have completed the first plane created using nothing but a 3D printer. The method which uses lasers to fabricate powdered metal and plastic was used to build the plane with no help from fasteners. The plane has a two metre wing span and hits a top speed of almost 100 miles an hour. According to the Southampton team this breakthrough in 3D printing could result in radical changes in the way aircraft are built.
“Laser sintering allows the designer to create shapes and structures that would normally involve costly traditional manufacturing techniques. This technology allows a highly-tailored aircraft to be developed from concept to first flight in days. Using conventional materials and manufacturing techniques, such as composites, this would normally take months. Furthermore, because no tooling is required for manufacture, radical changes to the shape and scale of the aircraft can be made with no extra cost.”
As a result of this project the University of Southampton has launched a new Masters course in unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) design. (Perhaps my April fools day post may not have been so far off the mark after all).
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