3D printing can also be useful for simple airborne vehicles – even with simple FDM printers. ELBE-SEA-SERVICES was able to use a simple 3D printer to create strong, lightweight bodies from PA filament for use in a UAV (airplane-like drone).
The design of the sample parts was critical. Sufficient wall thickness of several mm created the conditions for giving the construct a kind of sandwich structure. The printer was set up in such a way that, while outer skins of about 0.8 mm were printed, the interior was filled with a filler structure of cubes with very low material thicknesses. This meant that the base material PA2, which is actually not very strong, could be used to support surprisingly high loads. The material costs are very low.
However, for large components, a long printing time of sometimes several days is to be expected. Accordingly, it is advisable to divide the planned overall system into many smaller components.
One problem was the change of filament rolls in the printing process due to the insufficient accuracy of the printer used. It makes sense to carry out the change “on the fly”, so to speak, with such devices. To do this, the filament of the older roll must be cut off directly above the material feed of the print head and the new filament must be inserted into the feed tube at the moment when the old filament has disappeared into it.
On a UAV, most components are long rather than wide or tall. Therefore, a printer optimized for these dimensions should be used. Currently, ELBE-SEA-SERIVCES is working on an appropriate printing system with an installation height of about 200 mm.