ICON Aircraft recently took flight with the unveiling of its ICON A5, a small, recreational plane that its founder, Kirk Hawkins, hopes will revolutionize a market already enamored with powerboats and motorbikes. He calls the two-seat ICON A5 “the ultimate recreational vehicle,” able to reach speeds up to 120 mph.
Speed was important when it came to creating some of the aircraft’s parts. The unveiling of the plane at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., in July 2008 drove the decision to use RedEye’s rapid prototyping to create the plane’s seven or eight air ducting parts, according to Matthew Gionta, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering, ICON Aircraft.
“Using RedEye eliminated the tooling process for us,” Gionta said. “We put the parts in place on the airplane and then laminated structural composites over them. They became a tool for the structural part. Otherwise, we would have machined the molds and then laminated composite parts into them.” Gionta estimated that ICON Aircraft gained two to three weeks on the schedule, as well as saved $2,000 and two person-days per part for tooling.
Creating parts for a special aircraft required some special considerations. “Minimum part thickness was a big driver for us. We wanted to keep the weight as light as possible,” said Gionta. RedEye representatives recommended a 0.06 in. thickness to maximize handling and still keep the weight down. Some of the parts were 7 ft long.
Gionta chose ABS material, which can withstand the projected heat deflection above 180° F. He also used RedEye’s Ready Part process for a smooth finish. “Some parts are on the outer surface of the plane and visible,” he said. “It saved us some extra body work time.”
The parts created included two 3D air intake units underneath the wings to bring in outside air to cool the engine. Because he was familiar with rapid prototyping, Gionta designed the parts to be more intricate. “I included intricate turning vanes inside the ducts that we couldn’t have manufactured by hand. I put in extra features that we would not have been able to accommodate without very complex tooling. The result made for a higher performing duct.”
Redeye by Stratasys
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, Digital manufacturing