US Navy 3D prints custom drones

http://3dprint.com/85654/us-navy-3d-printed-drones/

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US Navy is 3D Printing Custom Drones Onboard the USS Essex

Back in April of last year,we reported that the United States Navy had installed a 3D printer onboard the USS Essex. This was quite a significant move at the time, allowing sailors to print replacement parts and surgical tools when needed, at sea.

Boy, has a lot changed within a year. Today we get word that the US Navy is now 3D printing custom drones onboard their ships. They’ve apparently been testingthe use of the onboard 3D printers to print out parts used to construct and assemble the drones.

The idea of printing drones, as needed, is one which could greatly improve intelligence while also decreasing the likelihood of Navy personnel being put into harm’s way, and has been on the minds of military planners around the world for some time now. In fact, just last week we reported on a story in which the British Royal Navy had launched 3D Printed SULSA drones from their ships.

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Data files and models of the drones can be sent via satellite from land to the USS Essex, and eventually other ships within the Navy fleet, and then these files can be 3D printed in a matter of hours. Once printed, the parts can be assembled together with other electronic devices held in storage on these ships, to create virtually any type of drone that may be required.

The project, which is being carried out by researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School, looks to provide sailors with modern-day technology which could benefit them and the United States in more ways than one.

“The challenge aboard a ship is logistics,” explained Alan Jaeger, faculty research associate at the Naval Postgraduate School. “Once a ship leaves, getting additional parts to that ship becomes difficult.”

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The idea that ships can leave port with just a small supply of electronic components and parts, common to the majority of drones, means that completely custom bodies can be designed on land and then quickly sent to the 3D printers on these ships for quick fabrication. While the drones could be designed to perform many different tasks, the example drone that was 3D printed on the USS Essex, this past December, was designed to carry a transmitter and tiny camera that was capable of sending live video back to a head-mounted display worn by one of the sailors on the ship. Its mission was to fly over ships in order to help stop piracy and drug smuggling at sea.

“This kind of concept — the flight controller and the major parts — doesn’t matter if it is a four-bladed or six or eight(-bladed drone), or whether it is 18 inches across or four feet across, as long as the electronics stay the same, the sailors can essentially create a platform, based on what their need would be,” explained Jaeger.

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While the testing of this process onboard the USS Essex has been deemed very successful, there have been some problems that the researchers have run into.

“Even with a small amount of wind, something this small will get buffeted around,” explained Jaeger.

This isn’t exactly an issue with the 3D printing process, but rather an issue with tiny drones in general. Certainly continued research into the 3D printing of drones will result in better, more well equipped UAVs for the US Navy in the future. What do you think about this latest breakthrough? Discuss in the US Navy 3D Prints Custom Drones forum thread on 3DPB.com.

3dprint.com

by  | JULY 30, 2015

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Help of 3D printing for robots!

http://time.com/3957156/3d-printing-robot-help/

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How 3D Printing Helps Robots Tackle Their Greatest Obstacle

One of the main challenges for robots is still traveling efficiently over rugged surfaces.

We’ve long attempted to recreate living creatures in robot form. From the very early age of robotics, there have been attempts to reproduce systems similar to human arms and hands. This has been extended to flexible and mobile platforms reproducing different animals from dogs to snakes to climbing spider octopods, and even entire humanoids.

One of the key actions performed by animals from mantises to kangaroos is jumping. But incorporating a jumping mechanism into autonomous robots requires much more effort from designers. One of the main challenges for robots is still travelling efficiently over rugged surfaces and obstacles. Even the simple task of going up or down a staircase has proven to be rather difficult for robot engineers.

A jumping robot could provide access to areas that are inaccessible to traditional mobile wheeled or legged robots. In the case of some search-and-rescue or exploration missions, in collapsed buildings for example, such a robot might even be preferable to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or quadcopter “drones.”

There has been increasing research in the robotics field to take on the challenges of designing a mobile platform capable of jumping. Different techniques have been implemented for jumping robots such as using double jointed hydraulic legs or a carbon dioxide-powered piston to push the robot off the ground. Other methods include using “shape memory alloy” – metal that alters its shape when heated with electrical current to create a jumping force – and even controlled explosions. But currently there is no universally accepted standard solution to this complex task.

A new approach explored by researchers at the University of California San Diego and Harvard University uses a robot with a partially soft body. Most robots have largely rigid frames incorporating sensors, actuators and controllers, but a specific branch of robotic design aims to make robots that are soft, flexible and compliant with their environment – just like biological organisms. Soft frames and structures help to produce complex movements that could not be achieved by rigid frames.

The new robot was created using 3D printing technology to produce a design that seamlessly integrates rigid and soft parts. The main segment comprises two hemispheres nestled inside one inside the other to create a flexible compartment. Oxygen and butane are injected into the compartment and ignited, causing it to expand and launching the robot into the air. Pneumatic legs are used to tilt the robot body in the intended jump direction.

Unlike many other mechanisms, this allows the robot to jump continuously without a pause between each movement as it recharges. For example, a spring-and-clutch mechanism would require the robot to wait for the spring to recompress and then release. The downside is that this mechanism would be difficult to mass-manufacture because of its reliance on 3D printing.

The use of a 3D printer to combine the robot’s soft and hard elements in a single structure is a big part of what makes it possible. There are now masses of different materials for different purposes in the world of 3D printing, from flexible NinjaFlex to high-strength Nylon and even traditional materials such as wood and copper.

The creation of “multi-extrusion” printers with multiple print heads means that two or more materials can be used to create one object using whatever complex design the engineer can come up with, including animal-like structures. For example, Ninjaflex, with its high flexibility could be used to create a skin or muscle-like outer material combined with Nylon near the core to protect vital inner components, just like a rib cage.

In the new robot, the top hemisphere is printed as a single component but with nine different layers of stiffness, from rubber-like flexibility on the outside to full rigidity on the inside. This gives it the necessary strength and resilience to survive the impact when it lands. By 3D printing and trialling multiple versions of the robot with different material combinations, the engineers realised a fully rigid model would jump higher but would be more likely to break and so went with the more flexible outer shell.

Once robots are capable of performing more tasks with the skill of humans or animals, such as climbing stairs, navigating on their own and manipulating objects, they will start to become more integrated into our daily lives. This latest project highlights how 3D printing can help engineers design and test different ideas along the road to that goal.

time.com

by July 14, 2015

3D printing capabilities and drones

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/drones-might-be-getting-smaller-3d-printing-technology-can-make-them-faster-lighter-1498237

Boeing and Sheffield University's 3D printed UAV

Drones might be getting smaller but 3D printing technology can make them faster and lighter

The past two years has seen the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry transform from being a military tool and a niche aerial hobbyist aircraft to a technology that has a wide number of commercial and consumer use cases.

This has come about due to the advent of much smaller UAVs, or rather drones that weigh less than 20kg, which has finally convinced authorities around the world that they are safe enough for widespread use.

However, although they are light, drones are about to get a lot lighter still as 3D printing technology is now being trialled to speed up prototyping and production, and the materials being developed are even better than those used in consumer and professional drone rigs today.

In the UK, aerospace and defence manufacturer Boeing is working with the University of Sheffield to research and develop complexly designed UAVs more cheaply using 3D printing, which is also known as additive manufacturing.

The engineers have succeeded in using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), a type of 3D printing technology, to print out all the components needed in a drone, including the catapult rig used to launch it into the air.

The drone consists of nine 3D printed thermoplastic parts that snap together. It features blended winglets and is powered by an electric ducted fan propulsion system incorporated into the airframe’s central spine.

“We’d like to use this kind of thing to show novel manufacturing methods. It’s still heavier than drones that use a foam wing, but the benefit is that you can quickly change it,” Dr Garth Nicholson, principal design engineer of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing’s Design Prototyping and Testing Centre, told IBTimes UK at the SkyTech 2015 drone trade show in London.

“We envision that in a humanitarian situation with a number of pilots who could only bring a limited number of spare parts of them, they could have a 3D printer in the field to print parts, or replace and put in different sensors that they need at the time.

“The benefit would be that you could also quickly rip it up, dispose of it safely and produce a new completely new rig in less than 24 hours.”

Using CarbonSLS to build drones

Other companies, such as Buckinghamshire-based firm Graphite Additive Manufacturing is looking into Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), another 3D printing technology, in order to produce lighter drones.

Drone 3D printed from CarbonSLS

“We’ve developed a material called CarbonSLS which uses a nylon powder with added carbon fibre strands. It was developed for use in Formula One racing cars, so it’s strong and it’s light,” Keith Haynes, project manager of Graphite Additive Manufacturing, told IBTimes UK, also speaking at SkyTech 2015.

“By using CarbonSLS, we were able to save at least 25% in weight by replacing the frame of this quadcopter drone with a frame made from our material.

“It flew just as well as the original, but even easier to control as it’s moving less weight around.”

The firm was set up two years ago by Kevin Lambourne, who formerly worked for Red Bull Racing to provide 3D printed parts to build Formula One race cars, so the materials developed have had to be very tough.

Haynes said: “We’ve come from a motor sports background and it’s not something we planned to go into, but we’ve had so many requests from the military, aerospace companies and small drone businesses about using our material to build drones that we’re now actively promoting it.”

ibtimes.co.uk

by at SkyTech 2015 | April 24, 2015 18:16 BST

3D printed drones for Ukrainian Army!

Rumors About the Ukrainian Army Using 3D Printed Drones Are True!

http://goo.gl/WBOshj

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If you are at all following international news then you know that the situation along the Ukrainian/Russian border is extremely dangerous. The geopolitical implications of this war, if not settled, could potentially spill over into surrounding areas, ultimately leading to widespread chaos in the region. With this said, there is a glimmer of hope, as this week an international team reached a cease-fire agreement after marathon peace talks in Minsk. Although all the details of the cease-fire have yet to be completely ironed out, it will go into effect at midnight tonight. The bloody confrontation has been anything but peaceful thus far, so any sign of a cease-fire should be well received by civilians on both sides of the battle.

In the midst of all this, the Ukrainian Army is using 3D printing and drone technology in quite an interesting way, perhaps saving human lives on the battlefield. Volunteers are funding and 3D printing aerial drones in the Robotics Lab at the Step IT Academy in Kyiv. These drones have been put to use by the Ukrainian Army as a way to monitor the situation that’s been developing with the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine from a safe distance.

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Dmytro Franchuk, Deputy Head of the Robotics Lab, is heading up this initiative, already having produced 30 3D printed drones, which are being used in battle. The lab, on average, has been using 20kg of thermoplastic per day within several 3D printers. The drones, which can capture images as far away as 2.5 kilometers, can stay in the air for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Each drone costs approximately $1,200 to 3D print (most of the expense is in the human capital, not the materials themselves), and another $3,000 in other sophisticated equipment is required. This, however, is compared to the typical $30,000 cost for similar drones which are not 3D printed.

Franchuk is a busy man apparently, as he is both fighting on the front lines as well as from the lab.

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“As I was the only developer of drones in the lab, I also had to go to the war front to teach soldiers how to work with them. It took time I could use for production,” Franchuk says.

Approximately 90% of all the parts in each of the 30 drones are in fact 3D printed on any of the three machines that the lab has acquired. The 3D printers themselves cost just $1,600, and are currently used 24/7, producing these battle drones as well as other gadgets.

We will know soon if this cease-fire will hold up, or crumble like the last one. In the meantime Ukrainian volunteers will continue producing these 3D printed drones for their army in the event that such an agreement with Russia should deteriorate.

Let’s hear your thoughts on this incredible use of 3D printing in the Ukraine 3D Printed Drone forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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3DPRINT.COM
by  | FEBRUARY 14, 2015

3D printed warheads for the US Army

The US Army is making warheads using 3D printing.

Not just ‘normal’ warheads. Due to better design control and use of patterns that could not be used prior to 3D printing, these warheads are deadlier, more efficient and more economical than traditional ones.

It’s worrying, yes, but it’s also really, really impressive to see how this technology can be used ANYWHERE and improve the field.

The US Army is building deadlier, more efficient, and less costly warheads using 3D-printing technology, according to new reports.

While 3D printers have made more headlines for their ability to makehomemade firearms, and for more benevolent uses like the development ofprosthetic arms or facial reconstruction surgery, the Army is planning to use them to print sophisticated warhead components on the cheap, according to Army Technology magazine.

“3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured,” James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center, told Motherboard.

Traditional manufacturing methods are no match for what 3D printers can offer such weapons of mass destruction. 3D-processed components could allow for superior design such as the ability to “pack in additional payloads, sensors, and safety mechanisms,” Motherboard wrote.

Weaponry made by 3D printers will also allow the military to engineer more precise specifications on warheads, such as blast radiuses.

“Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality,”Zunino said.

And while the US Army is attracted to 3D printing’s ability to offer more efficient mechanisms for killing, the cost-effectiveness at a time of budgetary cutbacks is enticing as well.

“3D printing also allows for integrating components together to add capabilities at reduced total life cycle costs,” Zunino said. “It is expected that 3D printing will reduce life-cycle costs of certain items and make munitions more affordable in the long run through implementation of design for manufacturability, and capitalizing on the add capabilities that 3D printing and additive manufacturing can bring to munitions and warheads.”

Zunino added that the Army is not likely to stop at mere component manufacturing.

“Maybe someday an entire warhead or rocket could be produced as the technology further matures,” Zunino said.

Printing weaponry in 3D doesn’t stop with the Pentagon. Defense giant BAE Systems announced in January that the British Royal Air Force’s Tornado fighter jets have performed their first flights with some onboard metal parts manufactured using 3D-printing technology.

BAE has also claimed in recent months that by 2040, aircraft will be able to use 3D printers to self-heal or produce mini-drones during missions using what they called ‘Transformer’ technology.

References:

Top 5 Weirdest Things to 3D Print

We’ve heard the stories about the life-saving organs created by 3D printers. We’ve shed a tear reading about prosthetic limbs produced to help amputees, marveled at the houses built by 3D printers and sat in awe as we read about NASA’s zero-gravity printer.

Let’s not forget 3D printing’s dark side, capable of producing dozens of weird, wonderful and even dangerous products.

Join us for a wild ride filled with a list of strange products printers can produce. Parental discretion is advised.

1) Sex Toys

Image from Textually

The popular movie ‘Neighbors’ starring Zac Efron and Seth Rogen featured a Bukobot 3D printer which printed out dildos. That’s right – for all the different beneficiary products 3D printing can produce, sex toys are in the mix too.

SexShop 3D allows owners of 3D printers to create dildos, plugs or vibrators at any size for only $5. As usual free alternatives exist, and Markerlove are more than happy to push the boundaries of the open-source community.

It’s not only male body parts that are being printed.

This Motherboard article claims that a 26-year old teacher from New York felt a sense of empowerment after scanning and printing her own vagina.

In related events, a Japanese artist also scanned her vagina, but she used the data to 3D print a boat.

What an exciting time we live in – we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried. She was subsequently arrested for allegedly distributing ‘vagina selfies’. Oh the woes of being a misunderstood artist!

2) Drones

3D printing has conquered both land and sea, and is now becoming a master of the sky. Ever heard of a perosnal UAV?

Short for unmanned aerial vehicle, these lightweight machines are slightly different to their cousins that drop bombs from high altitudes. Attach a camera to them, learn how to fly one and you’ve got yourself a unique perspective for filming live events, sports matches or even home-made films and documentaries.

The video above provides a detailed explanation of the hand-launched UAV, created by a team at the University of Virginia for the Department of Defense. Speeds can reach an impressive 120mph, at the cost of quickly draining the battery.

Eventually, 3D printed drones could be irreplaceable in recon missions. The ability to 3D print a new one and have it up and running within a few hours makes it extremely desirable.

Supposedly, the world’s first 3D printed drone was designed and built across the pond, in Southampton. The SULSA drone can be assembled within 10 minutes and is comprised of only 14 parts.

Hopefully, hobbyists won’t use these to spy on their neighbors.

3) A Fetus

Wait… what? There’s actually a good explanation for this.

A 3D Printed Fetus

Image from ABC news

For those overzealous mothers out there who would like to hold their babies before they’re even born, a 3D printed plastic fetus is probably the closest they’ll get.

Think of it as a souvenir for 9 months of struggling.

If you’re ready to fork out about 100,000 Yen (683), you can cuddle up to your plastic fetus as much as you like. Fasotec and the Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo are the ones responsible for the ‘Shape of an angel‘ service.

The impressive Biotexture technology is used to render the 3D data, after which a high-end resin printer begins to dual print the mother’s transparent womb and the fetus’ body.

Fasotec have been in the industry for over 30 years, so if there’s anyone you should trust to print your fetus, it’s definitely them.

A 3D Printed Bong

Image from Reddit


4) Drug Paraphernalia

Malta 3D Printing doesn’t condone the use of drugs, but we’ve always got an eye open for unusual, niche products. A novelty item if there ever was one, a 3D printed bong is sure to have stoners out there saving up their weed money.

Besides water pipes, other paraphernalia like grinders, ash catchers, splash guards, pipes and cleaners can also be printed.

With the infinite customization options available to users, you may be smoking out of a skull-bong modeled from your own head soon enough.

5) Guns

In case you’ve been living under a rock, 3D printed guns have been around for more than a year now. Originally, they would malfunction and explode upon being fired, but their development has since improved.

The ‘Liberator’

Image from Daily Mail

As of yet, nobody is known to have been killed by a 3D printed gun, but a Japanese man was arrested for the possession of printed firearms.

Most cannot fire more than a few rounds. It is sobering to imagine the potential dangers of such a product, created by the same machine which is about creating, not destroying.

Contrary to the Daily Mail’s fear-mongering article which implies that anyone can 3D print a gun, they are in fact very hard to make. As anyone with experience in the world of 3D printing could tell you, printing a complex, functioning product is far from easy. On top of that, building something which requires multiple pieces that can fire live rounds makes it an even tougher nut to crack.

Luckily, most of 3D printing personnel we’ve met aren’t hell bent on spreading anarchy by promoting the proliferation of plastic guns.

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