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3D Printed Plane takes flight

Posted by on 03/08/2011

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3D printing is catching on, this time in the form of an airplane that actually flies. The SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) is an unmanned aircraft, that was printed with a EOS EOSINT P730 nylon laser sintering machine.

The printers can take plastic and/or metals and print pretty much any three-dimensional object into whatever is inputted on the computer. 3D printing has the benefit of making parts that snap together perfectly, so this means there is no need to use additional fasteners or mounts to keep moving parts stuck together. Pretty much all the parts including the ailerons and rudders were printed along with the hinges and supports that move them up/down or side to side. This type of printing has proven to be ridiculously cheap versus regular construction of similar projects involving separately fabricated parts, and the need for additional custom made parts.

The electrically powered airplane took flight and was able to set a top speed of 100 miles per hour, and was almost silent at cruising speed.

There are various forms of 3D printing, and in this case laser sintering was used. To create objects, high powered lasers fuse together composites (such as ceramic, plastic or metal) into the desired 3D shape designed on the computer. The lasers gather information from 3D scans or models designed on computers and produce the models in a layered process. It is possible to design an entire model with all its relevant moving parts in one shot, which saves time, effort and money.

Check out the plane in action below.

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