In 2014, the number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) sold was about 20,000 in China, a figure that is expected to reach 290,000 annually by 2020.
Among a rapidly growing number of businesses, some, with more or less effort, will use 3D printing technologies such as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) to help them develop new UAVs so as to launch new drones at a faster pace. Here are a few examples:
1. The world's first 3D-printed UAV – SULSA
In 2011, engineers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom used the SLS technology to build SULSA, a UAV with a 2-meter wingspan and a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Afterwards, the British Navy also has it got involved in the Antarctic expedition.
2. Nano-Racing (France)
young company that manufactures competitive UAVs. Competitive UAVs represent an emerging segment in the UAV market, targeting the customer groups who are players participating in professional UAV competitions. At the time of developing new UAVs, they used the SLS technology to boost the development of various solutions.
3. A British wind speed sensor company uses the SLS technology
"The FT205 is the first among a new generation of lightweight ultrasonic wind speed sensors,” Fred Squire, Director of Sales and Marketing at FT Technologies Ltd. “The combination of the light weight of the FT205 with proven FT ACU-RES technology makes it ideal for air applications as well as other applications with demanding weight requirements. So, we used SLS nylon for printing so as to reduce weight.”
4. Alexis Massol from the United Kingdom
While studying mechanical engineering in his school’s Maker Space, he successfully made a 1.5kg full-featured UAV in five months. According to Alexis, he didn’t have any experience in 3D design, but learned SolidWorks on his own thanks to the online 3D design tutorials and then spent a few months creating the UAV independently. At first, Alexis used the FDM of his school for UAV production, but got a disappointed result. After that, he decided to try a different design and material. Eventually, Alexis used the SLS 3D printing technology to make a UAV he desired.
Taken all together, some readers may ask why there are more SLS technologies used abroad, instead of China. As a matter of fact, five years ago there were domestic mysterious users, such as TPM3D, who processed SLS UAV shells to quietly promote the national industry. I wish that the domestic drone business will never stop its pace of development, become increasingly stronger and come into more people’s lives.