A 3D Printed Aircraft Test Flies Successfully
Researchers have successfully built and flown an unmanned aerial vehicle, using 3D printing technology.
Engineering students from the University of Virginia posted a YouTube video of a plastic turbofan engine they had designed and built using 3D printing technology.
Executives at Mitre Corporation saw the video and sent an announcement to the School of Engineering and Applied Science that they were looking for two summer interns to work on a new project involving 3D printing.
Only one student, Steven Easter, then a third – year mechanical engineering major, responded to the job announcement.
Easter got the assignment to build over the summer an unmanned aerial vehicle, using 3D printing technology. In other words, a plastic plane, to be designed, fabricated, built and test – flown.
The engineers worked with inputs from their adviser, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor David Sheffler, a University of Virginia Engineering School alumnus and 20-year veteran of the aerospace industry.
It was a daunting project – producing a plane with a 6.5-foot wingspan, made from assembled “Printed” parts.
The students sometimes put in 80 – hour workweeks, with many long nights in the lab, the university said. Sheffler said he had confidence in them “The Entire Way.”
Eventually the plane was assembled and four test flights were undertaken in August and early September at Milton Airfield near Keswick. It achieved a cruising speed of 72.4 kmph and is only the third 3D printed plane known to have been built and flown.
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