Vulcan UAV have established an enviable reputation for pushing the boundaries of design in UAV manufacture and are in discussions with Graphite Additive Manufacturing to reduce weight of key components, helping to further aid flight times and battery life. Last year a team from Vulcan UAV were commissioned to build a drone capable of flying the English Channel. The drone covered the necessary 35km in 70 minutes and still had over half its battery life left. Vulcan UAV’s flexibility in the market-place, to design and manufacture bespoke UAVs has served the company well. As all drone manufacturers strive to reduce the weight of components, whilst retaining strength in critical areas, Additive Manufacturing (AM) is starting to play a key role in the design of UAVs of the future. As Alex Hardy of Vulcan explains ‘Weight is a huge factor for us, saving valuable grams can help to extend flight times, payloads and flight altitudes. The possibilities offered by metal and plastic 3D printing have the potential to change the way we design and manufacture key components in our UAVs’. Graphite AM and Vulcan conducted some analysis of a recently manufactured drone and identified clips, brackets and components that could be optimised to reduce material and weight whilst retaining strength and stiffness in critical areas. With the advancements in materials such as Carbon fibre and Graphite filled Nylon SLS, 3D printed parts are for the first time offering UAV manufacturers an alternative to traditionally machined metal and carbon fibre parts. Designing with the manufacturing process in mind is one of the key challenges for Graphite AM and their clients to understand. Topology of design can offer UAV manufacturers real and tangible weight gains. Vulcan UAV and Graphite AM are exploring aluminum and titanium sintering to discover which areas of their manufacturing process could benefit from AM. With limited build platforms and high running costs, metal sintering still has a long way to go to be a cost-effective solution for many components. The growth of the metal sintering market has been nothing short of staggering and with new printers and powder-based materials being released daily, greater lift capacities are in development. To find out more about the latest advancements in UAV technology visit www.vulcanuav.com
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