The prototype of the 3D printed plane THOR aircraft
Weighing just 21kg – or around 3st 2lb – the 13ft-long drone is called Thor which stands for ‘Test of High-tech Objectives in Reality’. The world’s first 3D printed aircraft has been unveiled by the European aerospace manufacturer Airbus.
All in white, the mini craft bore a resemblance to a model airplane when it was revealed at the International Aerospace Exhibition and Air Show at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport.
The craft flies without a pilot and uses propellers – but its real innovation is in the 3D printing technology experts hope will become a fuel-saving stalwart of future technologies.
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The developer in charge of Thor, Detlev Konigorski, says it’s a test of what can be made possible thanks to 3D technology.
“We want to see if we can speed up the development process by using 3D printing not just for individual parts but for an entire system,” he explained according to Phys.org .
Chief engineer Gunnar Haase added that the plane’s flight is stable.
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Airbus, along with US company Boeing, is already 3D printing parts for passenger jets the A350 and B787 Dreamliner.
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According to the experts, 3D printing is cheaper than alternatives and allows for almost no manufacturing waste, and there are already plans to use it to print parts for the Ariane 6 rocket which the European Space Agency is launching in 2020.
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Alain Charmeau, head of Airbus Safran Launchers, told AFP that the company is running tests on how to print an injection assembly for an engine assembled from 270 individual pieces.
The lighter materials from 3D printing mean less jet fuel will be used, causing less pollution, a concern among those who say air traffic is expected to double in the next 20 years.