This is the world’s first 3D-printed jet plane

October 18, 2021

With a 3D-printed jet aircraft, Stratasys is helping to influence the future of aviation for the better! Uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) developer Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia, has produced UAVs for almost three decades for private and military markets. However, with the development of consumer expectations and demands. 

Engineers at Aurora and Stratasys have just begun work on an ambitious project: a jet-powered, thrust-vectoring, blended wing-body, remotely piloted plane. 

According to Stratasys’ James Berlin, an additive manufacturing researcher, there has never been anything like this before. “It was an adventure into the unknown for us. It was our goal to uncover new limitations for these materials and additive techniques.” Due to the aircraft’s high speed and natural agility, the 22lbf (98N) jet engine and thrust vectoring system helped push the envelope. Despite this, 3D aircraft model printing is still associated with prototyping, according to Berlin. It’s not a desk toy that will shatter if you touch it; this is a jet that can reach speeds of 150 mph.

New Design Using 3D Aircraft Model Printed Parts. 

Stratasys 3D aircraft model printing has the benefit of allowing designers to go beyond simple surface geometry. While interior structure design now has greater design freedom, beginning engineering structures for aircraft can be more difficult. To use topology optimization, Aurora worked with Stratasys on the graphics. Topology optimization mimics complicated natural structures and shows excessive internal material, thereby optimizing the structure for a specific purpose. 

For Aurora, Stratasys’ additive manufacturing technology allowed the design team to optimize a robust and lightweight structure while also enabling the construction of a tailored, mission-specific aircraft at a cost-effective price. Additionally, the consolidation of assemblies into single components enables the ability to reduce complicated designs to attractive and straightforward solutions. The gasoline tank, for example, integrates numerous components by having tubing printed on the interior and outside, mounts for the fuel filter and fuel pump, and tiny clamps for connecting the fuel lines. 

Engineers precisely set the center of gravity because of this graphics flexibility, which is an essential consideration for blended wing body aircraft. In the words of Aurora Flight Sciences Research Engineer Dan Campbell: “Any modification in the design presents difficulties to the center of gravity. There is minimal influence elsewhere on the 3D aircraft model printing since the additive process can easily regulate where the material is put and where it isn’t.” 

Due to the use of additive manufacturing techniques, the production time of this aircraft was halved. By doing away with tooling, we were able to cut lead times in half. GrabCAD, a Stratasys collaboration tool that aids engineering teams in managing, viewing, and sharing CAD files, was used to coordinate the project by the core group of six engineers. Because of this, both businesses, located in separate parts of the country, we’re able to design and build the plane quickly. Revision tracking, communications, and serving as a repository for technical papers like the Bill of Materials are all features of the program. 

We’re all set to fly! 

They drove out to the salt flats, confident in their aircraft, but they weren’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that awaited them. Nerves began to set in as they began final component assembly on-site. But as soon as the 3D aircraft model came into reality and took off in the clear sky, a different reaction occurred. 

Bonus: A 3D printer and an airplane model may be printed at home. When it comes time to print your jet at home, you’re probably wondering where you can find the 3D models for free. That is why we are here, just download an airplane graphics from Frogmodel and print it!

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