France-based Survey Copter, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS), specializes in the design, production and integration of complete remote systems for surveillance photography and video service applications for UAVs and other airborne craft, as well as for sea and overland vehicles.
Having previously outsourced its prototyping requirements, Survey Copter turned to Stratasys for an in-house solution that could reduce costs and ensure greater efficiency and autonomy, granting the company the means to rapidly produce very small quantities within 24 hours. Via Stratasys’ French distributor, CADvision, Survey Copter subsequently installed two 3D printing solutions – a Stratasys Dimension Elite 3D Printer and Stratasys Fortus 400mc 3D Production System, which offers nine production-grade engineering thermoplastics using Stratasys’ patented Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology.
“Effectively meeting our 3D printing needs can only be achieved via machines that are capable of producing quality parts with high reliability,” explains Jean Marc Masenelli, managing director, Survey Copter. “Stratasys’ reputation for delivering 3D printers that meet these criteria head-on made them the logical company to partner with.”
Spearheading Survey Copter’s prototyping and short-run manufacturing activities, the Stratasys Fortus 400mc and Dimension Elite 3D Printers are deployed in the production of component parts for the company’s mini-UAV systems, including both helicopter and fixed-wing variants weighing up to 30kg and 10kg respectively. Ranging from a few millimetres up to parts measuring 40cm x 10cm, these components comprise mechanical structures for optical turrets, structural elements of aircraft, battery compartment housing, supporting structure, as well as scale models.
High Performance Materials Engineered for Aerospace
For Masenelli, the ability to utilise different materials according to specific application needs offers key advantages for producing durable 3D printed parts. Such materials include FDM thermoplastics polycarbonate, ABS and high performance ULTEM 9085 which boasts superior strength and lightweight properties, as well as other desirable characteristics including FST (flame, smoke and toxicity) rating. This safety standard, particularly valued within the aerospace and transportation industries, ensures a material won’t promote a fire, release harmful smoke, or emit toxic fumes.
“That we are able to print production-grade materials such as high-performance FDM thermoplastics like ULTEM, which is qualified for aerospace applications, is a definite plus for our operations,” he explains.
“The Stratasys 3D Printer can produce parts with complex shapes – for us a highly sought after requirement and a principle differentiator that sets Stratasys’ proposition apart from that of other providers,” he adds. “This specific capability enables us to produce parts of wide-ranging dimensions and hollow forms, as well as full honeycomb structures.”
Featuring two material bays for maximum uninterrupted production, the Stratasys Fortus 400mc 3D Production System produces accurate, durable, repeatable 3D parts with superior throughput. It is available in two configurations: the basic system which builds parts as large as 355 x 254 x 254 mm, and an optionally upgraded system which builds parts as large as 406 x 355 x 406 mm. With four layer thicknesses to choose from, users can fine-tune their desired balance between FDM’s finest possible feature detail and the fastest build.
The Stratasys Dimension Elite 3D Printer features the finest resolution of any Stratasys Design Series Performance 3D Printers and produces nine colors of real ABSplus thermoplastic. When the finest dimension resolution of 0.178 mm is not required, the Dimension Elite allows users to accelerate printing with a layer thickness of 0.33 mm.
Stratasys/CADvision will be exhibiting at the forthcoming Paris Air Show (17th – 23rd June, Paris, France) on stand 3-E54.