Unmanned Systems Technology 020 | Alpha 800 I Additive Manufacturing focus I USVs insight I Pegasus GE70 I GuardBot I AUVSI Xponential 2018 show report I Solar Power focus I CUAV Expo Europe 2018 show report

34 A dditive manufacturing (AM) is providing unmanned systems designers with the ability to build lighter, stronger structures and new types of components. It is even being used these days to print entire motors in a single block. Also known as 3D printing, AM allows structures to be built that have thinner struts and mounting brackets, as well as components with hollow internal spaces, to make them lighter without reducing their mechanical properties. That weight reduction makes them particularly suitable for unmanned aircraft and space systems. The technology also allows developers to experiment with new structures and print them out relatively quickly, rather than having to invest in injection moulding tooling, allowing faster prototyping. This is yielding new system designs with higher performance. The materials used in AM have themselves become lighter and stronger, and they also provide a range of finishes, which is important for good airflow and fluid flows. They are more resistant to caustic fluids as well, allowing cheaper plastic components to be built for hydraulic systems for example, rather than having to use steel or titanium. Their development is closely coupled to the type of equipment used to ‘print’ them, but third-party companies are developing their own materials as well. The size of components that can be built using AM was limited initially by the size of the build bed, but newly developed free-space systems and nozzles under robotic control in three dimensions are overcoming that. This is particularly appropriate for building systems in space, where a small machine can be sent into orbit cost- effectively to build much larger structures. That has led to the world’s largest 3D-printed component, a beam that is more than 37 m long and was built in one piece. It was created using a new printing system called Archinaut developed specifically for the space industry. June/July 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology One step at a time Nick Flaherty explains how – and why – additive manufacturing is being used to develop innovative unmanned systems The Tundra-M UAV was 3D-printed using different materials for different components (Courtesy of CRP)