Team of young scientists of MPEI develops innovational 3D-printer for aircraft creation
The engineering team Roboprint that belongs to the society of innovation projects Ventum Nova, MPEI, presented a prototype of a 3D printer to create large-scale objects. The new device can print a detail of any size. Such innovation can be helpful in aviation and space fields, for example, for building the aircraft hulls or in the car industry, as well as shipbuilding and wind power generation.
"Ventum Nova allows student teams to conduct scientific research, develop innovative projects on the basis of MPEI and under the guidance of university experts in order to create technology companies and commercialize developments. One of these promising projects is "Roboprint". The university provides all the necessary conditions for scientific activities: in our disposition there is a unique educational and experimental TPP, a full-scale polygon of renewable energy with wind power plants, solar power plants and a geothermal complex, equipment from the leading companies in the industry ", - comments Ivan Komarov, Director of the Center for Innovative Development of MPEI.
Presently the detail creation in modern 3D-printers is often carried out in the inner space of the device that significantly limits the scale of the printing. The first feature of the Roboprint project is printing in external space, which takes off the scale limits. The second one is the multithreaded print by the swarm of robots. This innovation allows to significantly increase the speed of the process for complex details’ creation. So, Roboprint is capable of producing the details that exceed the size of the device by dozens of times.
The Roboprint project is a controlled swarm of robotic printers. Apart from the printing part, the moving platforms of the device are provided with the radionavigation elements that coordinate the actions of all the elements of the swarm. The technology of the swarm conduct has never been used for 3D-printers control. The process of the creation of a large detail is divided in the print of the parts, and each one is operated by a special printer that is autonomous and have the supply of "ink" and energy.
Presently the biggest problem of the production of super large-scale machines like aircraft and wind turbines is their composition out of many small details. This approach has many disadvantages, the biggest of them is a high weight and low construction strength. The airplanes can’t be done much lighter by using aluminium. The big weight leads to considerable loss of fuel for each flight. But the transition from aluminium to composite materials used in Roboprint can give a significant win in weight, and the use of additive technologies gives an ability of printing the details with stiffening plates.and arming threads inside. Thus, the details keep their mechanical properties and along with that become lighter than their solid analogues.
To add, only 1 kilogram of weight economy in aircraft building ameliorates the ecology (reduces the carbon dioxide emission by 300 kilograms (150 m^3)) per year) and reduces the expenses of the aircraft company by 100$ per year. In the spacecraft industry the economy is 1000$ per kilogram. The 3D-print of the composites allows to lower the weight of the large-scale detail by 30% compared to metal analogue. The final goal is to print the whole airplane to simplify its production. Supposing that in 2050 the amount of flights will have been increased by 7 times, the use of 3D-print composite material technologies opens great possibilities in aircraft building.
In the production of wind generators the tendencies are similar. One of the hardest details to make is the propeller blade: it bears a colossal load of the air flow so it has to be strong, lightweight and have excellent aerodynamics. At the moment, the blades are made by hand using ready-made shapes. This severely limits the form-factor of the details made and makes the production non-flexible. Apart from that, the transport issues are important as well. It often happens that the blades of the wind turbine have to be transported from the production plant to the installment, and if the coastline wind generators can be reached by ship, the land ones are hard to get to. It is required to build complicated logistic schemes, block roads, avoid bridges and ferryboats because the blades can reach the length of more than 100 metres. For example, the biggest wind turbines of the Vestas company is of 236 metres.
Roboprint proposes to situate the production of wind turbines’ blades in the place of their functioning. The robotics swarm prints the whole detail without any moulds right on the building ground. This excludes the errors of harmful transportation and allows to create WPP even in the distant corners of the planet. The technical process is not limited by special forms or moulds, so the production becomes flexible and adjustable. Similar constructor’s solutions have already been applied and are very popular.
Now it is planned to print large functional details from composite materials: a beam and a set of wind turbine blades, by several simultaneously working printers. The trials will be held by the wind turbine of the MPEI scientific ground.