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3D printed carbon fiber aircraft parts for the urban air mobility market

News International-French

4 May 2020

The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) and ElectraFly, an aviation company building personal flying vehicles, are teaming up to create 3D printed carbon fiber aircraft parts for the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market.

3D printed carbon fiber aircraft parts for the urban air mobility market

3D printed carbon fiber aircraft parts for the urban air mobility market

Dr. Tulinda Larsen, Executive Director for UAMMI, said:

“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.”

Headquartered near Salt Lake City, Utah, ElectraFly is an aviation company designing and building single person, hybrid-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) multicopters.

John Manning, co-founder of ElectraFly, 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.”

Impossible Objects Composite Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM) 3D printer

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 fiber sheets and thermoplastic materials to produce Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) components under heat and pressure in a similar manner to compression molding.  The resulting CFRP parts are half the weight of aluminum but have comparable strength to weight ratios. 

Building on the success of the Air Force project, UAMMI will now use the CBAM technology to begin printing parts for ElectraFly.

Jeff DeGrange, Chief Commercial Officer, Impossible Objects, said:

“The CBAM printer is ideal for manufacturing parts for Urban Air Mobility 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 wil be using this technology to manufacture parts for their new innovative UAM vehicle and are excited to see the results.”

The UAMMI and ElectraFly team will begin working on the project with their first objective to replace the vehicles metal gears with composite fabricated parts. Additional parts will be be added to the program and manufactured over time.