UK engineers 3D print an aircraft

UAV created entirely from 3D printed components
Publish date:

<!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} -->Engineers at the University of Southampton have designed, printed and flown the first aircraft that is entirely made using 3D printed parts.

The SULSA, which stands for Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft, was printed on an Eos EOSINT P760 laser sintering machine, which builds an item up in layers out of plastic or metal, and was assembled without the use of any tools or adhesives. It has a two metre wing-span, a top speed of around 100mph and was controlled by an automatic pilot developed by one of the Southampton team members.

As part of the development process, the team utilised a number of design techniques used in the creation of Second World War aircraft, including the fuselage structure of the Vickers Wellington bomber and the elliptic wings of the Spitfire.

“Aerodynamicists have, for decades, known that elliptical wings offer drag benefits. The Spitfire wing was recognised as an extremely efficient design but it was notoriously difficult and expensive to manufacture,” said Professor Andy Keane of the University’s Computational Engineering and Design Research group. “Again laser sintering removes the manufacturing constraint associated with shape complexity and in the SULSA aircraft there is no cost penalty in using an elliptical shape.”

The University plans to use the techniques pioneered here as part of the Masters Degree programme in UAV design.