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3D Printed UAV Design – Good Idea or Bad?

3D Printed UAV Design – Good Idea or Bad?

Imagine if you could print a UAV design of your choice using a 3D printer. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? 3D printing has shown great potential in the recent past and its combination with UAV design could have significant business potential as users may be able to customize their equipment by printing drone parts themselves. However,

Imagine if you could print a UAV design of your choice using a 3D printer. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

3D printing has shown great potential in the recent past and its combination with UAV design could have significant business potential as users may be able to customize their equipment by printing drone parts themselves.

However, there are some risks involved with 3D printing parts of a drone. One risk is the inability to print well-balanced propellers – these require more traditional manufacturing because so much of the effectiveness of the drone’s flight is dependent on perfectly engineered shapes. While numerous people have tried, few have successfully created 3D printed propellers with low-budget equipment. Those who have succeeded were either using very high quality 3D printers (read expensive) or they have printed them for small drones. My feeling: only buy 3D printed propellers from a specialist manufacturer as it will be the cheaper and safer alternative.

On the other hand, there is great potential in 3D printing for drones if you’re talking about parts such as back-up landing gear or replacement case parts where there are fewer safety concerns. The problem is that the expenses associated with using a 3D printer for personal purposes are greater than the cost of ordering these parts from existing vendors. 3D printers are still not very common and they require a huge investment. As such, they don’t make much sense for the average user from a cost-benefit perspective.

But what if a small business were to invest in a 3D printer to print customizable drone parts from designers around the world? Now, there’s a great marriage between the two technologies!

Organizations Successfully Producing UAV Designs for 3D Printed Drones

While 3D printing is still a new technology, numerous organizations and teams of engineers have successfully developed and tested 3D printed drones. Following are some examples:

  • Hovership: Hovership is a pioneer of 3D printed racing drones. They’ve developed downloadable 3D designs which can be used by anyone. They also sell parts which can be used to complete a 3D printed model of a drone, thus providing a complete solution. 
  • University of Virginia: Their team of engineers designed a military grade drone which can be printed anywhere. They also successfully designed a UAV which is lightweight and at the same time strong enough for stable flight. It’s made of nine printable parts which can be assembled to complete the model.

Drone Business Opportunities with Expansion of 3D Printed Drones

There are huge job possibilities where these two technologies meet. Think of all those specialists needed to make the collaboration work: programmers for developing 3D applications, designers for producing 3D designs, and 3D printer operators.

No doubt the time for customizable drones is upon us. I see hundreds of business outlets providing these services in the near future and employing thousands. Will you invest in a business related to 3D printed drones?

Image via: Hovership

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