Who are your customers?
Our customers are engineering firms, architecture firms, companies in the energy sector, landfill owners, universities, researchers and many others. Our customers can be anyone who requires on-demand data from the above, data like ortho-mosaic aerial images, digital elevation models, 3D models, thermal maps, machinery, building inspections and basically, any case where a sensor is required in the air.
Can you give us examples of projects you’ve achieved or you’re working on?
There are two projects we would like to share with you.
Project 1 – Pipe inspection in an aluminum smelter
An aluminum smelter in Iceland approached Svarmi and asked if it was possible to map the exhaust pipes from the aluminum smelter pots. A thermal and a normal RGB camera was required for the job. Because of the high current going into the aluminum smelters, many modern electronic systems cannot function because of the strong magnetic interference caused by the electricity. This caused a problem when flying drones so close to the conductor of electricity. But the exhaust pipes were only a few meters away from the conductors. Another problem was that the exhaust pipe went under other structures along the length of the pipe making the use of GPS controlled drone dangerous in such a constrained environment.
Emerging 3D Printing and Prototyping Technologies
3D printing has many applications for prototyping consumer products. Take the devices and appliances primarily constructed of plastic that you use every day for example. Many are made by a process known as injection molding. Through the latest advances in 3D printers, prototypes can be manufactured to production model standards, ready to be evaluated by potential customers.
Why Use 3D Printing to Prototype Products?
The software controlling 3D printers allows rapid implementation of improvements to design, allowing product developers to easily create multiple iterations of prototypes. Once the final configuration is approved, manufacturing can begin almost immediately. 3D printing reduces development costs and shortens the time required for a product to enter the marketplace.
Innovations in 3D Printing Materials for Product Prototyping
A significant development in 3D printing has been the innovation in materials. New materials are much more robust than those used in the past with stereolithography (the 3D printing process that uses focused light to cure a resin).
For example, GE has used Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) for the printing of fuel nozzles to be used in LEAP jet engines. The printing process produced assemblies in a single run, which would have previously required 20 separate components. Given the potential return, it is easy to understand why companies like Boeing and Ford are willing to invest in 3D printing.
For which steps did you use 3D printing during your product development process?
We use 3D printing for all of our steps of the product development process, from prototyping to producing the final product. 3D printing is just so much more than just a prototyping technique!
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Why was it relevant to use 3D printing during the development of these products?
We often need to design complex three-dimensional parts that before would just have been way too expensive to manufacture. So, the manufacturing methods put immense restrictions on our design. We could only use simple two or three-axis CNC machines to produce our parts in order to keep within the budget of the project. Now we design and almost don’t need to think about how we will manufacture the part.
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