3D Metal Printing for Commercial Unmanned Aircraft

W-Hulsey-SmithAero Kinetics is an Aerospace and Defense firm, and one of their key business units is focused on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  The company was founded by W. Hulsey Smith in 2003, and they’re now the first firm to file for FAA Type Certification for multi-rotor, unmanned aircraft.

“We want safe, airworthy aircraft operating within the national airspace,” Smith says. “We are excited about this opportunity to work with the FAA to set the bar and establish a method of certifying unmanned systems for commercial use. Setting standards – in a strategic and safe manner – marks a new era in Unmanned Aircraft Systems that literally takes commercial UAS out of the Dark Ages.”

Now the company has signed a partnership agreement with SLM Solutions NA which will bring 3D metal printing technology to Aero Kinetics’ latest generation multi-rotor, vertical takeoff and landing UAS.  Smith says the deal is key to the company’s ongoing vision.

“The safety, speed, and quality of SLM’s machines are well suited to produce ultra-lightweight structural components for unmanned aircraft,” Smith said. “When coupled with Aero Kinetics’ subject matter expertise in design for additive metal manufacturing, we will reduce weight in our critical structural components. SLM and their technology help us deliver unmanned aircraft to our clients with the most advanced 3D printing technology.”

He adds that additive technology for metal part prototypes and production manufacturing means Aero Kinetics can rapidly produce complex, optimized, aerospace-grade components, and that the technologies improve component life cycle and cut back on obsolescence.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with a leading innovator in the VTOL segment like Aero Kinetics, in attaining FAA certification for parts built on SLM Solutions products,” said James Fendrick, the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for SLM Solutions. “We believe there is true value in proving that our products are capable of manufacturing parts that are flight worthy, and able to pass strict FAA requirements.”

Aero Kinetics say their partners are crucial in their efforts to service their international customer base with disaster and emergency response solutions, border security, ranching and electronic news-gathering solutions.

SLM Solutions – the North American subsidiary of SLM Solutions Group AG – provides of metal-based additive manufacturing technology with part production and prototyping for aerospace, automotive, academia, energy and medical industry users. Headquartered in Lübeck, Germany, SLM develops and assembles machines and integrated system solutions with their Selective Laser Melting technology. The company employs more than 160 people in Germany and North America.

Through this partnership, unmanned aerial drone technology should take a leap forward as 3D printing enables more affordable as well as lighter production components.  We’ve already seen the enabling effects that 3D printing has had on the consumer-based drone industry.  It will be very interesting to see just what ultimately comes down the pipeline from Aero Kinetics and SLM Solutions moving forward.  Do you think the Unmanned Aircraft Systems market and operators are over-regulated, and do you believe those regulations are hindering the development of such systems? Let us know in the 3D Metal Printing to Commercial Unmanned Aircraft forum thread on 3DPB.com.

Founded by W. Hulsey Smith in 2003, Aero Kinetics are the first firm to file for FAA Type Certification for multi-rotor, unmanned aircraft. Smith says setting standards for such aircraft marks a new era in Unmanned Aircraft Systems which will take “commercial UAS out of the Dark Ages.” His company just signed a partnership agreement with SLM Solutions NA which will bring 3D metal printing technology to the Aero Kinetics latest generation multi-rotor, vertical takeoff and landing UAS.

Source: 3D Print



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