Members of the AMRC Design and Prototyping Group UAV team.
The team, from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s Design and Prototyping Group at The University of Sheffield has taken additive manufacturing to new heights.
Building on a project from earlier this year where the team developed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) they have now improved their original glider to incorporate electric-powered, ducted fan engines.
Using 3D printing, the Group were able to rapidly reduce the time and material costs of manufacturing. With rapid manufacturing techniques, they were able to produce carbon fibre component jigs, fixtures and moulds as well as parts of the UAV’s airframe using Stratasys FORTUS900mc FDM technology.
In one single printed part, the team successfully managed to create the central body of the UAV, complete with the twin engine ducts and complex internal features.
Designers also improved pitch control by creating a moveable “Duck Tail” that uses concepts similar to those recently used in Formula One racing to harness the air leaving the UAV’s engines for aerodynamic effect.
In addition to this, the team also designed a launch catapult, using a number of RM parts capable of propelling the UAV into the air with a launch speed of just under 30 miles an hour.
The Group’s next challenge is to replace the electric ducted fans with miniature gas turbine engines and to double the UAV’s wingspan to three metres. They are also looking at using novel methods of controlling flight to replace conventional elevons, employing vapour polishing for finishing some printed components, including composite moulds, and developing structural batteries –that could act as part of the UAV’s structure.
“The project was a success on all levels, from team building, experience gained in structural and systems design and design for manufacture through to testing and validation of Computational Fluid Dynamics,” said senior design engineer Dr Garth Nicholson. “The aircraft was developed using both an incremental design philosophy, as well as trialling experimental manufacturing techniques in carbon fibre production”.
The latest version of the UAV project is designed to showcase the Group’s skills and technological capabilities for helping small and medium-sized manufacturers. The team were recently given the opportunity to showcase their project in a presentation at an SAE aerospace manufacturing conference in Salt Lake City.