3D printing has captured the hearts and imaginations of many people even though I don’t think it can be considered mainstream yet. At least I don’t think that you can easily get hold of a 3D printer. There is no doubt about the technology’s ability to bring out the creativity in people, though. From printing tiny versions of yourself to printing in bone – the applications of 3D printing are fun! I think my favorite is the 3D chocolate printer – no one can deny the appeal and usefulness of that!
Recently, a group of aeronautics engineers from the United Kingdom made 3D printing history by successfully flying the first ever 3D printed plane. Yes, you read that right. They have created a plane using a 3D printer, and it actually flies!
The team behind the world’s first 3D printed plane is led by Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan from the University of Southampton. What they have just done is no small feat, either. While you and I may be thinking how much fun it can be to design, print, and fly our own remote control planes, the UK engineers have something bigger in mind.
Think drones. Think unmanned surveillance planes. Indeed, with this success, it is totally possible for, say a government agency, to design an unmanned plane for a specific purpose and then have a 3D printer spit it out faster than you can say “unmanned aerial vehicle”.
Going back to the first 3D printed plane. Obviously it is not meant to carry passengers from London to New York. The engineers designed it with a 1.5-meter wingspan and printed it out of hard nylon. Some parts of the plane were printed separately and were made to snap lock together. Even the hinges of the plane were 3D printed! As for the motor, the team decided to go for an electric one, for the rather obvious reason that using fuel would only mean more weight. Here’s the video in case you have doubts. ((Source))
With a budget of (only) GBP5,000, the guys have made history. And whether we see homemade/commercially 3D printed planes or 3d printed drones in the future, the whole concept is still pretty cool!