Springfield Ohio’s SelectTech in September of 2011 reports sucessful test flight of the worlds first privately funded 3D printed aircraft. Designed by Frank Beafore and Beth Galang, flown by Jade Lowrey at Springfields Beckley Municipal Airport. Aircraft is powered and guided by electronics from Radical RC. Powered by Himax brushless motor, Castle Creations ESC, and Kypom Lipo battery. The aircraft was manufactured on a Dimension 22 1200 ES Printer which works by fusing together strands of ABS plastic. The printer can make parts up to about 10″ long. The aircraft is an assembly of many sections. The wing panels are made with ribs, skin with a light cross hatch structure under the skin (a Radical RC suggestion) to allow the skin to be made thin and light weight. In each rib with each panel are premade holes to accept the carbon rod spars. Total printing time was about 5 days.
Generally the 3D printing process is used to make prototype parts to verify designs before making a hard tooling investment. However, SelectTech demonstrates that projects with complex mechanical requirements can be manufactured and put directly into service very quickly.
A story was published in the Dayton Daily News Business section on Nov. 13, 2011.