The World’s First ‘Printed’ Aircraft

The World’s First ‘Printed’ Aircraft

Engineers at the University of Southampton in England create an unmanned air vehicle from parts printed on a machine.

Emma Hutchings

A project at the University of Southampton has resulted in the design and flight of what is believed to be the world’s first ‘printed’ aircraft. It was created by Professors Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan and their team in the University’s Computational Engineering and Design Research group. The SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) plane is an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) made up entirely of printed parts. This includes the wings, integral control surfaces and access hatches. It was printed on an EOS EOSINT P730 nylon laser sintering machine, which fabricates plastic or metal objects by building them up layer by layer.

The entire aircraft can be put together in a matter of minutes, without the need for tools, simply by using ‘snap fit’ techniques. It has a 2-metre wingspan and a top speed of nearly 100 mph. The electric-powered plane could have a great impact on the future of aircraft design, as parts can be made and put together simply and concept to first flight takes only days.

University of Southampton