Leptron sees advantages in 3D printing.
Leptron is a leader in remotely piloted helicopters focusing on law enforcement, military and civilian uses. Leptron’s RDASS 4 is a unique unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that weighs only five pounds and can be in the air in five minutes’ notice. Its four battery-powered electric motors enable it to hover at 100 feet with a half-mile line of sight. The device carries a wide range of cameras and other electronic equipment.
A typical military application for the RDASS 4is to provide an armored vehicle with the ability to see over the horizon and inspect terrain or structures that might present a danger. Computer simulation has shown that the device can increase survivability of an armored vehicle by 50%. TheRDASS 4 also has many other applications including police work.
“We made approximately 200 design changes during the course of the project,” Oakely said. “They included everything from reinforcing the structure to shoring up weak areas to making aerodynamic improvements. Every single part has changed a minimum of four times. FDM gave us the flexibility to make these changes without incurring a significant time or cost penalty. It would not have been possible for a company of our size to design and build this product using conventional manufacturing methods.”
The fuselage of the RDASS 4 is constructed ina series of nested sections called layers that fit together similar to Russian dolls. The company has developed multiple designs for each layer for specific civilian and military applications. Each layer can be easily interchanged with the others to be tailored specifically to the needs of a particular application without substantial additional cost or delivery time.
When designing the RDASS 4, Leptron engineers faced the challenge of developing eight variations of complex fuselage components in a short period of time to beat potential competitors to market. The plastic components that form the shell for the layers must withstand functional and crash tests where the RDASS 4 is flown into the ground. The craft must demonstrate the ability to be easily repaired and flown again after the crash. A minority of parts have mechanical requirements that cannot be met by plastic so they are made of metal.