UAMMI & ElectraFly make 3D printed UAM aircraft parts

May 07, 2020 - United States Of America

The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) and ElectraFly, an aviation company building personal flying vehicles, have recently joined hands to create 3D printed carbon fibre aircraft parts for the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market. ElectraFly makes single person, hybrid-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) multicopters.

Under a contract from America Makes, for the last two years, UAMMI has been using the Impossible Objects Composite Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM) 3D printer to fabricate legacy aircraft parts for the Air Force. The CBAM technology is a novel additive process that uses carbon fibre sheets and thermoplastic materials to produce Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) components under heat and pressure in a similar manner to compression moulding. The resulting CFRP parts are half the weight of aluminium but have comparable strength to weight ratios, according to a press release by UAMMI.

Building on the success of the Air Force project, UAMMI will now use the CBAM technology to begin printing parts for ElectraFly. UAMMI and ElectraFly team will begin working on the project immediately with their first objective to replace the vehicles metal gears with composite fabricated parts. Additional parts will be added to the programme and manufactured over time.

“The market for Urban Air Mobility aircraft, which is on-demand urban transportation aircraft carrying from 1 to 8 passengers, is forecasted to be 430,000 vehicles over the next twenty years. Using lightweight 3D printed advanced materials will be essential to meet the manufacturing requirements for this emerging industry,” Tulinda Larsen, executive director for UAMMI said.

“There is an undeniable movement happening in air transportation, but there are problems in efficiency. Teaming with UAMMI to transition our complex metal parts to lightweight 3D printed composite parts will support our innovations and help expand our operations here in Utah,” John Manning, co-founder of ElectraFly said.

“The CBAM printer is ideal for manufacturing parts for UAM aircraft because the technology of layering composites ensures strong, lightweight composite parts and the digital agility of building different part families on-demand. We are thrilled that UAMMI and ElectraFly will be using this technology to manufacture parts for their new innovative UAM vehicle and are excited to see the results,” Jeff DeGrange, chief commercial officer, Impossible Objects said.