The use of “additive manufacturing” (also known as 3D printing) and computer aided design stretches back to the early 1990s, when engineering and architectural drafting CAD programs first became widely available to professionals in the field. In recent years, however, the expansion of 3D printing technology has meant that CAD has an even more prevalent place in many industries, with many companies either actively using it to produce products already on the market, or experimenting with ways to integrate it into their normal manufacturing processes. In this article, we’ll take a look at two recent stories about the use of CAD in additive manufacturing by mechanical engineers.
British Engineers Launch 3D Printed Drone from Battleship
Drones, or unpiloted aircraft, have become a hot topic in recent years. Originally used exclusively for military purposes, companies such as Amazon and Google are now actively experimenting in using the technology for consumer applications. As interest in drones grows, so does interest in looking for ways to manufacture them. To that end, a team of engineers from Britain’s University of Southampton recently tested their design for a 3D printable drone by launching it from the HMS Mersey, a UK military ship.
The drone, named the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (or SULSA) is made from powdered nylon that has been sintered, or fused into a solid object with a laser. After being printed in four parts and combined to make the whole aircraft, SUSLA was able to fly for approximately 500 meters
SUSLA was built as a part of Project Triangle, an attempt by University of Southampton engineers and scientists to create the world’s first printable aircraft. One of these engineers, Professor Andy Keane, predicts that the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, another name for drones) will only increase as manufacturing becomes cheaper and demand rises, and that SUSLA’s nylon frame and overall design will likely serve as inspiration for later designs.
Auto Industry Use of Additive Manufacturing Continues to Evolve
In the auto industry, additive manufacturing is currently a vital part of the prototyping and diagnostic processes of the major companies. As auto manufacturers find new uses for CAD and 3D printing, however, many are now predicting that they will soon become a part of the construction of vehicle frames and other parts, as well.
Some predictions take the future penetration of CAD into the car business even further. According to consulting firm Carlisle & Company, the days of car dealerships and garages 3D printing their own replacement parts are not too far away. Carlisle, which says it has been “interested” in 3D printing for around two years, says that while the use of 3D printing in the auto industry is still in its infancy, the likelihood that dealerships will soon be able to print their own parts from CAD files without the need of middleman suppliers isn’t one that should be discounted.
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