Drones, which fly freely in the sky due to recent technological developments, have expanded the sphere of human activity to three dimensions, and are now being used in various situations. However, depending on the place of operation, there is concern about contact accidents. Once a drone collides with a wall or ceiling during flight and loses control, it is extremely difficult to recover. In particular, I want to avoid contact with the propeller part as much as possible. On the other hand, if everything is covered, the airframe will become heavy and the mobility will be lost.
The solution is the safety drone guard developed and sold by Sky Blue LLC. Lightweight, sturdy, and customizable for different applications. 3D printing technology was behind it.
Background of introduction: Fine adjustment of shape is possible / Shortening of production time
Mr. Ueno, who answered this time, was originally in the automobile industry for a long time, but turned around and launched a business related to drones. At a time when I was feeling a vague limit to the automobile industry as a whole, I sensed the future in the new technology of drones. So what I thought was what is necessary to make the drone more stable and fly farther.
The biggest concern is contact. No matter how carefully you operate it, you can't get rid of the fear of losing stability due to sudden winds or flying objects. At the very least, the chances of propeller collisions should be reduced...that's what I thought.
First, I found a good part. A rod made of carbon fiber. It is light, supple and hard, and sturdy. It is the best material for a drone guard as it does not interfere with air flow. It was decided to partner with a manufacturer and leverage this to create a guard.
The problem is the joint part. Sticks alone don't make a shape, so you need parts to connect sticks to sticks and sticks to drones. However, it is very difficult to make this by the conventional method of injection molding. If you pour plastic or metal into a mold, you will naturally need a separate mold for each part, resulting in a large number of types. Above all, considering the number of production, it was difficult to make a profit. In order to be profitable with injection molding, it was necessary to mass-produce at least 3000 pieces each, but in current use, at most about 20 pieces are produced for each part. Considering that the shape will be adjusted for each drone and that new standards will come out one after another in the future, it was very unrealistic.
That's why I focused on manufacturing parts with a 3D printer. The shape can be finely adjusted, and it can be manufactured from a single part. In addition, due to the characteristics of the application of covering the drone, it was fortunate that there were many parts with inversion symmetry. Injection molding requires a separate mold, but with a 3D printer, you can create a pair of parts just by inverting the data.
The production time is perfect. It can be delivered in about two weeks after receiving an order ... This means that production will begin after an order is placed, so there is no need to worry about holding inventory. Even if your business grows, simply adding more 3D printers will increase the amount of production. “We thought 3D printing would be the best way to create a drone guard,” says Ueno.
Operation method and effect: lightness and robustness
It was decided to create the framework with carbon fiber and the joint parts with a 3D printer. Only one problem remains. It was the sturdiness of the connecting parts that supported the direct impact and the deflection of the rod.
At first, we used general plastics such as ABS as materials, but they were prone to cracks, cracks, and other damage. With this, I can't fulfill my duty as a drone guard. Mr. Ueno looked for a sturdy material and a 3D printer that could produce it.
After all, if you want to achieve both lightness and toughness, carbon fiber is the right choice. Onyx, which was adopted, is a carbon-blended nylon (polyamide) material provided by Markforged, a manufacturer of 3D printers for the manufacturing industry. With the company's 3D printer "Mark Two", it is possible to create parts with the same strength as aluminum because a layer of carbon fiber can be sandwiched in the modeled object. At the time we started the drone guard business, 3D Printing Corporation was the first company in Japan to handle 3D printers for the manufacturing industry.
Get in touch, share data, and create a prototype. As it turns out, Onyx is sturdy on its own and works well as a Drone Guard joint. It was fortunate that we could use only "Onyx" because of the small joining parts, but even if we reach a stage where even greater strength is required in the future, if we insert a layer of carbon fiber, we have the potential to aim for a considerable improvement in quality. It has become a safe material. With 3D Printing Corporation, Onyx, and Mark Two as partners, we have finally realized a drone guard that is lightweight, robust, and compatible with various standards.
Droneguard's business is doing well now, with three "Mark Two" units in operation. “Once we find a better printer, we will stop using our previous 3D printers,” laughs Mr. Ueno.
In addition to Guard, Sky Blue, a joint company that develops drone nets that cover the range of drone activity outdoors. We asked about future prospects.
According to Mr. Ueno, drones are expected to grow in size in the future. Bigger and more powerful drones are expected to play a role in applications such as agricultural pesticide spraying and the construction industry. Along with that, the propeller part is also greatly strengthened, and the danger increases. “In that case, the drone guard no longer protects only the main unit, but also protects people. From the looks of it, it is safer to use it with a cover rather than the bare one,” Ueno said. You speak with sincerity.
In conjunction with this, the standardization of drone guards is also progressing. When it comes to construction drones, in addition to reviewing the law, we have to consider the strength of the guard. It seems that the joint company sky blue is making this standard with the country.
And finally, it seems that they are also developing a fixed-wing drone that is completely different from the propeller type. When gliding with a fixed wing, you can expect an overwhelming improvement in efficiency compared to the propeller method that always requires fuel. In other words, the future may come when drones are also active in long-distance transportation. Mr. Kobayashi, who joined as a new employee, was originally a car designer. Taking advantage of that experience, he seems to be 3D printing parts for drones with reference to airplane wings. Since it is easy to scale parts with a 3D printer, the model is gradually enlarged to improve accuracy. Mr. Ueno hopes that 3D Printing Corporation will cooperate with this project and that they will utilize their extensive knowledge of 3D printing, including DFAM™.
Mr. Ueno happily talks about the possibilities of drones and 3D printing. And Mr. Kobayashi, who realizes it with technology. We at 3D Printing Corporation hope to support the future together with Sky Blue LLC.