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Case Study

Taking flight

January 26, 2022

3D printers decrease Aerialtronics’ design and development costs while catering to customization

Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) for civilian commercial applications are one of the most exciting disruptive technologies today. With more than 200 of its aircrafts already in use, Netherlands- based Aerialtronics is poised to offer systems for applications ranging from infrastructure inspection and mapping to livestock monitoring and creative filming for advertising and marketing.

As a small company with only 35 employees, a major challenge for Aerialtronicsis to develop systems that could meet the requirements of a variety of industries without spreading its resources too thin between dozens of discrete designs.

“We have developed a concept that uses a standard platform and is customizable to individual customers and applications,” explains Joost Hezemans, head designer at Aerialtronics

This customizable product became the Altura Zenith, which has specially tailored options, including the number and power of motors, payload capacity, flight times and variations of required software systems. Other customizable pieces include motor housings, different gimbals and boxes and enclosures for hardware and software. “Developing even these limited variations required many design iterations and prototype models,” says Hezemans. “The process was slow and expensive.”

In order to reduce development times and contain its costs, Aerialtronics sought a faster, more cost-effective solution than outsourcing. Working closely with Stratasys®, the company installed a uPrint® SE Plus™ 3D Printer.

3D printing technology helped us advance the design and development of the Altura Zenith drone far more quickly and at a much lower cost than would have been achievable with conventional methods.

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R&D times nosedive by 50%

Hezemans says that Aerialtronics taking control of its own 3D printing requirements has drastically reduced lengthy lead times and cut its R&D time by about 50 percent.

“We liked the ease of operation and how CAD designs could be fed into the 3D printer. The ABSplus™ material also has the right strength and weight characteristics perfect for us to build a flying prototype.” Hezemans adds that ABSplus works well for customized parts. “The motors, for example, can generate a lot of heat, so it’s critical to have a material that can withstand it while also possessing the right strength and weight characteristics. The ABSplus motor mounts have those properties.”

Real Challenge

As heart surgeries become increasingly intricate and complicated, planning patient-specific care for challenging cases has become more difficult using traditional methods. “When you are dealing with a complex situation where different organ systems are abnormal, each one needing its own specialist team with real-time decision making at the time of surgery, it becomes very difficult to coordinate, plan and make decisions,” said Rajesh Krishnamurthy, M.D., section chief of radiology research at Texas Children’s Hospital.

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