EADS (OE13) is displaying an unmanned air vehicle built wholly by a three-dimensional printer using a process known as additive layer manufacturing (ALM).

The battery-powered UAV was designed by students from the University of Leeds under EADS supervision. A version with metallic, flight-capable wings will be manufactured in EADS's Filton facility in the UK.

ALM involves using a laser to heat up powdered metal to form a shape, to which layers are added in the same form until it reaches the desired thickness.

"EADS has developed the technology to the extent that it can manipulate metals, nylon and carbon-reinforced plastics at a molecular level, which allows it to be applied to high-stress, safety-critical aviation uses," says the company.

3D printing has become relatively common in aviation as a technique for building very light custom designs. While no aircraft are in service using 3D-printed components, several test structures and entire UAVs have been built for testing purposes.

Source: Flight Daily News