Stratasys and Optomec Inc. announced that the companies successfully completed a joint development project to merge 3D printing and printed electronics to create the world’s first fully printed electro-mechanical structure.
The development of a “smart wing” for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) model with functional electronics is a revolutionary event that has the potential to change product development in industries including medical device, consumer electronics, automotive and aerospace. An Optomec Aerosol Jet system was used to print a conformal sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing itself was 3D printed with the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process. The electrical and sensor designs were provided by Aurora Flight Sciences, a supplier of UAVs. The combination of FDM 3D printing and printed electronics technologies can provide benefits over traditional prototyping, manufacturing and field repair processes. Performance and functionality of products can be improved in two ways: 3D printers enable lighter weight mechanical structures; and conformal electronics printed directly onto the structure frees up space for additional payload. In turn, the process has a positive impact on the environment by using fewer materials. Manufacturers can implement this technology in a multitude of applications, not just in aerospace. This technology can benefit numerous industries by allowing thinner, lighter, fully functional structures that cost less to manufacture.