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3D printing gives Leonardo’s vertical takeoff and landing aircraft win

Italian company Leonardo has been working on its tiltrotor aircraft AW609 for some time now. 3D printing specialists CRP Technology has now produced a wind tunnel model on a scale of 1:8.5, bringing the aircraft closer to certification.

17 Feb. 2019
3D printing gives Leonardo’s vertical takeoff and landing aircraft win (Photo: © Leonardo)

The vertical takeoff and landing aircraft has an eventful development history , one which has seen a number of delays. According to a senior manager at Leonardo, however, the aircraft is now on course to receive certification from the US authorities in 2019. The 1:8.5 scale wind tunnel model, which has now been constructed and boasts a number of special features , is an important step in this direction. It was produced using selective laser sintering technology from Modena-based CRP ; the highly specialized company is a sought-after Formula 1 supplier and, together with its subsidiary Energica , makes innovative electric motorcycles.

According to CRP, it took just one day to set up the 3D printing jobs; four days later, the individual component parts, which on account of the loads in the wind tunnel need to be particularly robust, had been created. Windform, a carbon fiber-reinforced composite developed by CRP, was used here. The material’s properties include ultra-high dimensional stability when exposed to heat.

Leonardo is not, however, the only aerospace-smith currently working on civilian vertical takeoff aircraft. As reports , on January 22, 2019, Boeing’s autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype took off on its maiden flight. The company is also working on a freighter version of its electric aircraft.