Can embedded electronics be combined with 3D printing in a high-temperature environment to produce a super heat-resistant drone? Ido Elyon and Stanley Leung of Stratasys Asia Pacific approached PhD student Phillip Keane, who had already successfully launched a CubeSat company, to try to answer this question.

Keane is researching applications of ULTEM 9085, Stratasys’ traceable, aerospace-grade, high-strength FDM 3D printing material, at the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing at NTU (Nanyang Technological University) Singapore. The drone that he designed, a quadcopter, was 3D printed with embedded electronics. Embedded electronics are not a first, but the temperatures involved were very high; when 3D printing ULTEM 9085, the material requires a print chamber temperature of a minimum of 160°C and an extruder temperature in the region of 300°C.

3D Printed Drone

The 400mm class drone 3D printed using Stratasys ULTEM 9085 material. Transmitter shown for scale.

The end result was an incredibly tough quadcopter that can, in principle, survive in temperatures that exceed the limits of commercially available drones. Additionally, the project has determined some best practices to be employed if engineers should wish to embed electronics hardware mid-print.

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