Two groundbreaking startups are pooling their tech capabilities, hardware and experience to develop drones specifically designed for deployment by firefighters, using heat-resistant materials and 3D printing power to speed up production and reduce costs.
The joint effort involves Texas-based technology developer Axle Box turning to solutions and materials offered by additive manufacturing specialist Essentium Inc. In doing so, Axle Box – whose goal is to provide various operational equipment to public safety, first responder and military customers – uses the Essentium high-speed extrusion (HSE) 3D printing platform and high-performance heat-resistant materials to accelerate its production of drones capable of withstand the wilting temperatures encountered during deployment by firefighters, especially during wildfires.
Axle Box pursues this goal by producing the mid-body of its drones using Essentium’s high-temperature nylon, which contains a 25% carbon fiber reinforced core. This provides improved heat deflection temperatures as well as tensile and flexural strength. Axle Box uses other 3D printed materials for the drone side covers that are designed to fail before mid-body under extreme firefighter deployment conditions, but without sacrificing thermal stability.
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Axle Box says its prototypes have exceeded expectations in testing, while 3D printing production has allowed it to speed up the development process and reduce costs by limiting material waste through the additive manufacturing process.
“The speed, scale and economy of the HSE 3D printer combined with Essentium’s line of advanced 3D printing filaments is a game-changer for the design and development of drone platforms,” said Madison Jones, Director of Additive Manufacturing at Axle Box. “The HSE has transformed our fabrication shop and we typically go from design to production in less than four weeks. If we need a new part, we can get one printed and launched into the air within hours. Our first responder customers will greatly benefit from this innovation agility.
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The partnership harnessing the power of 3D printing in the production of bespoke firefighter drones comes as the peak period of what has now become a year-round fire threat approaches, particularly in the west and north. southwestern United States.
“As first responders prepare for fire season, firefighters need nimble remote-controlled drones to provide visual surveillance of wildfires in virtually any type of environment – from urban areas to rural deserts,” commented Blake Teipel, CEO of Essentium. “We are delighted that Axle Box Innovations has chosen our 3D printing platform to enable the development of structurally robust drones capable of withstanding these extremely harsh conditions.”
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