22 May 2013 Using advanced manufacturing to produce unmanned aerial vehicles: a feasibility study
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Abstract
This paper reports on a feasibility study to explore the impact of advanced manufacturing on the production and maintenance of a 3D printed, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in theatre. Specifically, this report focuses on fused deposition modeling (FDM), the selective deposition of a molten thermoplastic. FDM is already a forward deployed technology, primarily used for printing custom tools and replacement parts. The authors ask if it is feasible to expand the printers’ capacity to produce aerial platforms; the reduction in logistics and labor could significantly decrease costs per unit and enable far more platform customization and specialized deployment scenarios than are available in existing aircraft. The University of Virginia and The MITRE Corporation designed and built a prototype, 3D printed UAV for use as an aerial sensor platform. This report • Discusses the printed aerial platform, summarizes the design process, and compares printing methods • Describes the benefits and limitations to selecting FDM printers as the technology both for deployment as well as UAV design • Concludes with the current state and future expectations for FDM printing technologies relevant to UAV production. Our findings suggest that although 3D printing is not yet entirely field-ready, many of its advantages can already be realized.
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Steven Easter, Jonathan Turman, David Sheffler, Michael Balazs, and Jonathan Rotner "Using advanced manufacturing to produce unmanned aerial vehicles: a feasibility study", Proc. SPIE 8742, Ground/Air Multisensor Interoperability, Integration, and Networking for Persistent ISR IV, 874204 (22 May 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2027616; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2027616
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