I have been remiss in discussing one of the companies that I met down at AUVSI. I’ve been wanting to do a more thorough profile, but time has been escaping me.
Stratasys is a company that performs 3D printing services near my old home of Boston. Massachusetts has been a hotbed of UAS innovation lately and I have been talking about the area quite frequently, so the location is well-suited for the company.
I’ve heard a lot about 3D printing, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to learn more about it and see it in person. Stratasys discusses the process on their website, and on this page they have a great video about bionic arms they created for a little girl! I’ve also included a video below that shows a part being made in time-lapse.
One reason that 3D printing and UAS go together is that there are numerous unique parts that have to be designed, and they need to be both lightweight and strong. This is where traditional casting hits a wall. Some of the parts cannot be cast in a single piece, and it is impossible to weld multiple pieces together in a way that makes them both sufficiently strong and light.
The second reason that 3D printing goes well with UAS is that the industry is still young and many parts are not being mass-produced. Traditional methods would require one to develop a cast for the unique piece, adding time and money. With 3D printing, one inputs the data file to the printer and it spits out the part!
Finally, 3D printing can include “soluble cores.” In this case one has two options. The printer can print two separate materials and the final object is immersed in a solution that dissolves the soluble material. This creates a void. Alternatively, a mold can be made from the soluble material and used to cast a traditional object, then dissolved. This is great for prototypes and other situations where one does not want the cost of creating a traditional cast.
I’ve included a picture of the swag they were giving out, a small 3D printed keychain. The material is a long, wound-up plastic filament that is printed as shown in the video, which remains in the final product.