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19th June 2018, Modena

Windform materials finding use in UAV

Windform 3D Printing materials by CRP Technology, which were originally developed for the motorsports industry, are now finding a diverse range of uses outside the race track, for example, in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) field. The company joined forces with Hexadrone to manufacture an unmanned aerial system, commonly known as a drone, using Laser Sintering technology and Windform family of high performance composite materials.

The aim of the project is the construction of Hexadrone’s first fully modular and easy-to-use drone for industrial and multi-purpose tasks, made for extreme weather conditions thanks to rugged, waterproof design.

Tundra 3D printed functional prototype at CES 2018. © CRP Technology

The Tundra-M is conceived around a multifunction perspective. It can rely on its four quick connect arms, as well as its three accessory connections, to turn into a formidably effective and very pliable work tool. This makes the Tundra-M suitable for plenty of different flight scenarios as well as plenty of professional uses.

The body as well as the main parts have been conceived with the composite polyamide-based material carbon filled Windform SP and Windform XT 2.0. Those two materials are shaped into pieces using the selective laser sintering 3D printing technology. The four arms supporting the body frame of the Tundra were 3D printed using Windform XT 2.0 composite material. The rest of the components were developed with the Windform SP composite material.

Collaboration with CRP Technology

Understanding the limitations with traditional manufacturing technologies, the opportunity to develop a unique drone based on the use of Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies was identified.

The body frame is composed of the main frame plus a removable top lid. This component contains the brain of the Tundra-M. © CRP Technology

Hexadrone has requested CRP to devise the functional prototype of the Tundra-M, Hexadrone’s very first mass-produced drone. “We have engineered our drone by means of a cautious, multifaceted, and collaborative based approach with the involvement of broad-based stakeholders,” said Hexadrone CEO Alexandre Labesse. “In the course of two years of consulting, research and development we have gathered all the advice and customers’ testimonials useful to its design and which finally helped us in the process of devising an ideal UAV solution”.

This choice made it possible to substantially reduce the costs and has been very convenient in terms of timing when compared to traditional production methods. The properties of AM Windform XT 2.0 and Windform SP composite materials have allowed system optimisation that successfully withstands the design requirements due to space limitations and the extreme conditions during flights.

Approaching mass production

Hexadrone moved to SLS technology in collaboration with CRP Technology in order to accelerate iteration generation, improve manufacturing time and facilitate series production. “The Windform selective laser sintering technology allowed us to easily prototype key components of our product, to outcompete the plastic injection moulding process in terms of deadlines, cost, and to test our prototype in real life conditions with almost the same mechanical characteristic,” added Alexandre Labesse.

Tundra assemblage. © CRP Technology

“The project we have designed with these two materials, the Windform SP and the Windform XT 2.0 from CRP Technology, lies in the conception of different frame parts, junction parts, a quick release patented system as well as the components forming our patented carbon-made arm system. This 3D printing time/cost saving technology helped us a lot and now allows us to calmly approach the mass production phase.”

Innovative aspects

The requirements were fast iteration process, best ratio between structural strength and weight, acceptable consistent result and opportunity to combine multiple functionalities from one unique part. CRP Technology provided fast response time to new requirements, very good cooperation with Hexadrone and CAD designer and best output quality with unique proprietary process, the company explains.

“Regarding the most innovative aspect of Laser Sintering technology with Windform materials, lies in the possibility to prototype with all the pros of the plastic injection process without the cons this method entails in terms of cost and deadlines. Furthermore, Windform provides us with a close enough material in terms of properties,” said Alexandre Labesse.

Windform composite materials

Windform XT 2.0 is a carbon fibre reinforced composite 3D printing material suitable in demanding applications such as motorsports, aerospace, and UAV sectors. It is designed to replace the previous formula of Windform XT in the Windform family of materials.  Windform XT 2.0 features improvements in mechanical properties including +8% increase in tensile strength, +22% in tensile modulus, and a +46% increase in elongation at break, according to the company.

Windform SP has been developed to offer excellent mechanical properties similar to Windform XT 2.0, with the addition of increased resistance to shock, vibrations, and deformation. The material also shows increases in impact strength and elongation at break, as well as excellent thermal properties and resistance to high temperatures. It has waterproof properties, and it is resistant to absorption of liquids and moisture.

www.crptechnology.com

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