UAV wing showing electronic circuitry printed onto the wing

Electronic circuitry was printed onto a model of a UAV wing, which itself was 3D printed. (Photo: Optomec & Stratasys)

On March 23 Statasys and Optomec released this Press Release. I have put my comments on the press release in bold.

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MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)– (Nasdaq: SSYS) Stratasys and Optomec Inc. today announced that the companies have successfully completed a joint development project to merge 3D printing and printed electronics to create the world’s first fully printed hybrid structure.

3D Future Editor Comment: I’m fairly sure it is not the first fully 3D printed hybrid structure. I suspect poetic license is involved

The first project, the development of a “smart wing” for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) model with functional electronics is a revolutionary event that has the potential to change product development in industries including medical device, consumer electronics, automotive and aerospace. A video on stratasys.com discusses the making of hybrid structures.

3D Future Editor Comment: More poetic license. 

“Bringing together 3D printing and printed electronic circuitry will be a game changer for design and manufacturing,” says Jeff DeGrange, VP of direct digital manufacturing at Stratasys. “It has the potential to completely streamline production by requiring fewer materials and steps to bring a product to market.”

3D Future Editor Comment: Good point here. Having an item produced in a single (or low number of steps) reduces costs in marterials, capital and labour. This results in cheaper and probably higher quailty designs.

An Optomec Aerosol Jet system was used to print a conformal sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing was 3D printed with theStratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process. The electrical and sensor designs were provided by Aurora Flight Sciences, a supplier of UAVs. “

3D Future Editor Comment: I would love to get my hands on this 3D printer!

We envision many potential applications of the Stratasys-Optomec approach for hybrid direct digital manufacturing,” said David Kordonowy, who leads Aurora Flight Sciences’ Aerostructures Research Group. “The ability to fabricate functional electronics into complex-shaped structures using additive manufacturing can allow UAVs to be built more quickly, with more customization, potentially closer to the field where they’re needed. All these benefits can lead to efficient, cost-effective fielded vehicles.”

3D Future Editor Comment: This is correct. Maybe printing a UAV appropriate for the condition can be done at an Army base for example. Being able to 3D Print and item close to it’s use reduces the transportation costs of the item. It is also generally produced “just in time”.

The combination of FDM 3D printing and printed electronics technologies can provide benefits over traditional prototyping, manufacturing and field repair processes. Performance and functionality of products can be improved in two ways: 3D printers enable lighter weight mechanical structures; and conformal electronics printed directly onto the structure frees up space for additional payload. In turn, the process has a positive impact on the environment by using fewer materials.

3D Future Editor Comment: This article has an example of how 3D Printer reduce the material needed in some items. In this case the material required was reduced by 40%.

“Manufacturers can implement this hybrid technology in a multitude of applications, not just in aerospace,” says Optomec’s Ken Vartanian. “This technology can benefit numerous industries by allowing thinner, lighter, fully functional structures that cost less to manufacture.”

3D Future Editor Comment: Lighter is generally better for many applications. 

Optomec is the world-leading provider of additive manufacturing solutions for high-performance applications in the electronics, solar, medical, and aerospace & defense markets. These systems utilize Optomec’s patented Aerosol Jet Printed Electronics technology and LENS powder-metal fabrication technology. The company has a global customer base of more than 100 users that includes many industry-leading manufacturers. Online at: www.Optomec.com

Stratasys Inc., Minneapolis, is a maker of additive manufacturing machines for prototyping and producing plastic parts. The company markets under the brands uPrint and Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus Production 3D Printers. The company also operates RedEye On Demand, a digital-manufacturing service for prototypes and production parts. Stratasys manufactures 3D printers for Hewlett Packard, which it sells under the brand Designjet3D. In 2011 Stratasys acquired 3D printer maker Solidscape Inc. According to Wohlers Report 2011, Stratasys had a 41-percent market share in 2010, and has been the unit market leader for the ninth consecutive year. Stratasys patented and owns the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM®) process. The process creates functional prototypes and manufactured goods directly from any 3D CAD program, using high-performance industrial thermoplastics. The company holds more than 285 granted or pending additive manufacturing patents globally. Stratasys products are used in the aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, business and industrial equipment, education, architecture, and consumer-product industries. Online at: www.Stratasys.com

Fused Deposition Modeling is a trademark, and FDM, Fortus, Dimension, uPrint and Stratasys are registered trademarks of Stratasys Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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Conclusion

We’ve managed to print an aircraft wing with embedded electronics. This allows the wing to be lighter and better. This is a good thing.

Being able to routinely printer embedded electronics I think is the next major step for 3D Printers. When we can do that, 3D Printing is going to be mainstream very very quickly.

 

By On 31 March, 2012 · Leave a Comment · In Manufacturing
 

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