Students from the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering successfully conducted a test flight for the A3TB, an experimental aircraft designed for testing wing flexibility and future flexible aircraft designs. The aircraft was created using 3D printing technology, and is the first one of its type to be successfully tested. The test flight took place on May 15, according to a press release by the Technion.
Modern aircraft designs have many requirements, which in turn create challenges. For example, fuel consumption reduction is important for decreasing pollution, which creates an economic and environmental challenge that designers must take into consideration.
A possible solution would be creating lightweight designs for structures with a large wingspan that would reduce the drag force of the aircraft. However, this would also increase flexibility, which may cause structural tremors and possibly even a loss of stability.
This is where the test flight of a 3D printed aircraft comes in, providing relatively inexpensive and safe testing platforms which can be “sacrificed” at relatively low cost in both money and project time.
The A3TB signals a breakthrough in the design of a flexible-wing aircraft manufactured using a 3D printer, according to the press release.
Two groups of students at the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering have been working on the aircraft's design for the past two years, attempting to reach the nexus point of balance between a lightweight aircraft with long and flexible wings and one that maintains stability by using special control mechanisms that would respond to wing gusts.
The A3TB platform weighs 10 kg., has a wingspan of three meters, and was designed by students under the guidance of Dr. Lucy Edery-Azulay and Prof. Daniella Raveh, in collaboration with the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) at Israel's Defense Ministry.
“The successful flight signals the starting point of an extensive program of research, testing and design," Raveh said. "The concept we developed, and the possibility of printing the entire aircraft on a 3D printer, offer considerable freedom in designing the airplane and an enormous cost advantage compared to airplanes made of composite materials or metals."Since it is a test airplane that is expected to crash at some point, these features make it possible to make many improvements without large investments," Raveh added. "The group is currently working on an automatic control mechanism that will be installed on the second generation of the aircraft, A3TB-G2, in the next few months, and we hope to report on additional interesting results in the near future.”