Additive Manufacturing Strategies

AirDog, World’s First Auto-follow Drone Designed to Track and Record Activities, is Entirely 3D Printed

ST Medical Devices

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Like I said in the past, two of the most exciting, but also a bit worrisome technologies which have emerged in our lives these last few years, are 3D printing and drones. Both technologies promise to take society to places we air-4could only have dreamt of a decade or two ago. At the same time, each technology also brings about a whole new set of concerns among lawmakers, but just as with all new technologies, society eventually figures out how to limit the negative risks associated with them. As a techno-geek myself, I find that I am constantly wondering what’s next. Over the years I have found that when two new major technologies converge, it usually leads to even more superior innovations, and that’s just what is happening with 3D printing and drone technology.

Just last week a company called Helico Aerospace Industries US LLC launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 for the funding of their Airdog auto-follow drone. The drone will be marketed mainly towards active outdoor enthusiasts who participate in extreme sports. The individual who wishes to be video recorded, simply wears a device on their wrist called an AirLeash. The drone then knows to follow that leash and videotape in its vicinity. It is perfect for surfers, mountain climbers, wakeboarders, etc. Already, after just eight days the Airdog drone has raised over $420,000 from Kickstarter.

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What the creators of this drone failed to mention in their campaign, is that they relied primarily on 3D printing to build and test this amazing piece of equipment. In fact, if it wasn’t for 3D printing, it’s likely that this project may have never gotten off the ground.

“The benefits delivered by 3D printing compared to the method we trialed originally are numerous”, says Edgars Rozentals, Co-founder and CEO. “Above all, turnaround time is significantly reduced and if we need to make last minute changes to a design, we can do so within a matter of hours, easily and cost-effectively. This was simply unachievable before as it necessitated time-consuming production of a costly air-5new mold. In fact, I’m not sure how we would have arrived at the stage of having a functional part, were it not for Stratasys 3D printing technology. I founded the company two years ago and we’re a staff of three, so for start-ups like Helico, this technology isn’t just a game-changer, but the ticket to the game itself,” he explains.”

Nearly the entire drone, besides the main electrical and sensing components, was constructed out of Stratasys’ FDM-based ULTEM material. Doing so allowed the team at the Latvian based company to design the drone lighter and more efficient then they had imagined. The second part of the system, the AirLeash was also 3D printed with a Stratasys’ PolyJet multi-material 3D printer, in just one pass.

Helico executives intend to put on a month long road show later this month in which they will show off the 3D printed, working prototype, in hopes of receiving even more funding for their Kickstarter project. It seems likely that the finished product which will retail around $1,500, will rely on more traditional means of manufacturing, only because of supply constraints and timing issues involved in additive manufacturing,  however, it appears that the 3D printed version of the drone certainly performs to task. Let us know if you are a backer of this incredible project, in the Airdog 3D printed drone forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below from the company.

[Source: Stratasys, Kickstarter]

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