Laser-Sintering from EOS Takes Off at Unmanned Systems North America

Attendees seeking to explore the unparalleled benefits that laser-sintering offers to the rapidly expanding unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry can get a good start at Booth 1216 at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2011 (Washington, D.C., Aug. 16-19). There EOS, the world-leading manufacturer of laser-sintering systems, will be demonstrating UAV parts and presenting background from technical experts on the use of laser-sintering as a competitive business strategy.

“UAV design and manufacture is the most dynamically growing and evolving sector of the aerospace industry, and it has its own demanding challenges,” says Udo Behrendt, Business Development Manager Aerospace at EOS. “The unique capabilities of our systems meet these challenges while eliminating some of the costs and manufacturing restrictions of traditional processes.”

Laser-sintering involves no tooling, and very little machining or fixturing, making it highly cost-effective and speedy for the low production runs of most UAVs. Re-designs of parts for changing missions and payloads, including mass customization for individual UAVs, are inexpensive as well. Because laser-sintering is an additive manufacturing technology, it can be used to create complex geometries that integrate multiple parts for weight savings, or that fit into the irregular space left in existing assemblies. Designs being laser-sintered for UAVs include fuel tanks, engine shrouds, control vanes, filter boxes, and air ducting, for example.

Available laser-sintered materials are well-suited for unmanned aircraft. EOS AlSi10Mg Aluminum can be used to create lighter-weight thin-walled parts. EOS NickelAlloy IN718 and IN625 provide high tensile strength, excellent processability and uniform corrosion resistance. In plastics, aside from various polyamide 11 and 12 materials, EOS also offers fire-retardant polyamide PA 2210 FR as well as PEEK HP3, the first high-performance thermoplastic polymer available for laser-sintering.

Still more materials options are available from EOS’ strategic partner Advanced Laser Materials (ALM). Between 60 and 70 percent of ALM’s business is creating one-of-a-kind plastics formulations in close cooperation with individual customers. “Just as laser-sintering promotes customized, design-driven manufacturing, we use our expertise with polymer bases and various additives to customize plastics,” says Donald Vanelli, president of ALM. “The customers know best what they want in terms of physical requirements, and we understand how to formulate a plastic to match their needs.” In addition to tailoring materials, ALM also has standardized offerings such as 640-GSL, an extremely lightweight glass- and fiber-reinforced plastic with an average density 15 percent less than nylon—and nylon has about the same density as water—and a high strength imparted by the fibers.

Andrew Snow, Regional Director, Sales, at EOS of North America, says, “The UAV industry has barely begun tapping the potential power of laser-sintering to create innovative, reliable parts. There’s no better proof of how our technology supports unmanned aircraft design and manufacture than the range of invention, in plastics and metals both, that our customers are displaying at this show.”

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