Empa’s Laboratory of Sustainability Robotics is developing a special drone for firefighting operations. Lightweight, stable and temperature-resistant parts, produced using the SLS 3D printing process, are the key to success.
As an interdisciplinary research institute, Empa sets standards in the field of sustainable and resilient solutions. Its mission statement turns away from a throwaway society and towards a circular economy – to secure a sustainable future for our world. The Laboratory of Sustainability Robotics department focuses in part on the development of flying robot platforms.
David Häusermann and his team have developed a fire drone to help firefighters assess hazards. The drone features an infrared sensor and a conventional RGB camera to minimize risk in the field and increase efficiency.
Conventional drones are unsuitable for extremely hot environments because their components can melt or burn. Therefore, the team searched for materials that could withstand temperatures up to 200°C. In collaboration with materials scientists at Empa, they developed a polyimide aerogel heat shield to protect the drone electronics.
Initially, FDM (fused deposition modeling) was used in the development phase, but the components were later replaced with laser-sintered PA12 elements because they offer higher accuracy, material quality and temperature resistance. SLS technology also eliminates the need for support structures during printing.
The 3D printed parts sponsored by Sintratec, such as mounting frames of the aerogel heat shield, fasteners for electronic components, clamps of the rotor arms and gearbox housings, meet all project requirements and respond as expected when tested under real conditions, Häusermann explains. He emphasizes that SLS technology and the excellent material properties are perfectly suited for drone construction and that he will continue to use them in future projects.
Find out more about Empa at empa.ch.
For more information about Sintratec, please visit sintratec.com.