[FoRK] [3D printing] Student Engineers Design, Build, Fly ‘Printed’ Airplane

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Oct 21 17:44:06 PDT 2012


And so it begins...

http://news.virginia.edu/content/student-engineers-design-build-fly-printed-airplane
>
>
>   Student Engineers Design, Build, Fly ‘Printed’ Airplane
>
> October 5, 2012
> Fariss Samarrai <http://news.virginia.edu/content/fariss-samarrai>
>
> When University of Virginia engineering students posted a YouTube video last spring of a plastic turbofan engine they had 
> designed and built using 3-D printing technology, they didn’t expect it to lead to anything except some page views.
>
> But executives at The MITRE Corporation, a McLean-based federally funded research and development center with an office in 
> Charlottesville, saw the video and sent an announcement to the *School of Engineering and Applied Science 
> <http://www.seas.virginia.edu>* that they were looking for two summer interns to work on a new project involving 3-D printing. 
> They just didn’t say what the project was.
>
> Only one student responded to the job announcement: Steven Easter, then a third-year *mechanical engineering 
> <http://www.mae.virginia.edu/NewMAE/>* major.
>
> “I was curious about what they had to offer, but I didn’t call them until the day of the application deadline,” Easter said.
>
> He got a last-minute interview and brought with him his brother and lab partner, Jonathan Turman, also a third-year mechanical 
> engineering major.
>
> They got the job: to build over the summer an unmanned aerial vehicle, using 3-D printing technology. In other words, a 
> plastic plane, to be designed, fabricated, built and test-flown between May and August. A real-world engineering challenge, 
> and part of a Department of the Army project to study the feasibility of using such planes.
>
> Three-dimensional printing is, as the name implies, the production or “printing” of actual objects, such as parts for a small 
> airplane, by using a machine that traces out layers of melted plastic in specific shapes until it builds up a piece exactly 
> according to the size and dimensions specified in a computer-aided drawing produced by an engineer.
>
> In this case, the engineers were Easter and Turman, working with insight from their adviser, mechanical and aerospace 
> engineering professor David Sheffler, a U.Va. Engineering School alumnus and 20-year veteran of the aerospace industry.
>
> It was a daunting project – producing a plane with a 6.5-foot wingspan, made from assembled “printed” parts. The students 
> sometimes put in 80-hour workweeks, with many long nights in the lab.
>
> “It was sort of a seat-of-the-pants thing at first – wham, bang,” Easter said. “But we kept banging away and became more 
> confident as we kept designing and printing out new parts.”
>
> Sheffler said he had confidence in them “the entire way.”
>
> The way eventually led to assembly of the plane and four test flights in August and early September at Milton Airfield near 
> Keswick. It achieved a cruising speed of 45 mph and is only the third 3-D printed plane known to have been built and flown.
>
> During the first test, the plane’s nosepiece was damaged while the plane taxied around the field.
>
> “We dogged it,” Easter said. “But we printed a new nose.”
>
> That ability to make and modify new parts is the beauty of 3-D printing, said Sheffler, who works with students in the 
> Engineering School’s Rapid Prototyping Lab. The lab includes seven 3-D printers used as real-world teaching tools.
>
> “Rapid prototyping means rapid in small quantities,” Sheffler said. “It’s fluid, in that it allows students to evolve their 
> parts and make changes as they go – design a piece, print it, make needed modifications to the design, and print a new piece. 
> They can do this until they have exactly what they want.”
>
> The technology also allows students to take on complex design projects that previously were impractical.
>
> “To make a plastic turbofan engine to scale five years ago would have taken two years, at a cost of about $250,000,” Sheffler 
> said. “But with 3-D printing we designed and built it in four months for about $2,000. This opens up an arena of teaching that 
> was not available before. It allows us to train engineers for the real challenges they will face in industry.”
>
> MITRE Corp. representatives and Army officials observed the fourth flight of Easter and Turman’s plane. They were impressed 
> and asked the students to stay on through this academic year as part-time interns. Their task now is to build an improved 
> plane – lighter, stronger, faster and more easily assembled. The project also is their fourth-year thesis.
>
> “This has been a great opportunity for us,” Easter said, “to showcase engineering at U.Va. and the capabilities of the Rapid 
> Prototyping Lab.”
>
>
>     About the Author
>
>
>       Fariss Samarrai <http://news.virginia.edu/content/fariss-samarrai>
>
> /Senior News Officer
> /
>
> U.Va. Media Relations
>
> farisss at virginia.edu <mailto:farisss at virginia.edu>
>
> (434) 924-3778
>






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