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CASE STUDY: AEROSPACE

FDM Bureau Builds 3D Printed Parts for Recreational Aviation

Recreational aeroplane manufacturer ICON is working on their products becoming as popular as motorcycles & powerboats. ICON have used a FDM service bureau to not only save time & money but design end use parts for their latest A5 aircraft taking advantage of the geometric freedom that rapid manufactured FDM parts offer.

An FDM service bureau was used to manufacture eight of the A5’s air duct parts, material selection & the speed of turnaround was key to being able to launch the aircraft at the Experimental Aircraft Association Air Venture Show.

To save on both time & cost over tooling, FDM parts were assembled on to the A5 & structural composites were laid up over the thermoplastic parts. ICON calculated that using FDM substrates for composite lay up saved them up to three weeks in time & saved over £1200 as well as two days in labour for tooling.

The use of FDM parts allowed the ICON engineers to design parts with optimised thin wall sections to make the aircraft as light as possible, some of the parts were 1.5mm thick with a length of 2133mm. ABS-M30 was chosen because of its heat deflection temperature above 82c & it’s also an easy material to finish for visible parts.

Other parts that were built in FDM included two intake units that sit beneath both wings which, are used for engine cooling. The parts were designed with FDM in mind so that the complicated vanes could be made in one piece this would not be possible with conventional tooling. The FDM parts were optimised for airflow performance rather than manufacturing limitations.

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