Until recently, Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems ordered aircraft components from an outside vendor and performed sanding and other finishing processes on them prior to manufacture. However, the parts purchased were often of an inconsistent quality, so NWUAV decided to manufacture them in-house to ensure their high quality.

The EOSINT P 390 laser-sintering machine builds up thousands of different components in a single process. Photo courtesy EOS of North America Inc.


Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems (NWUAV) manufactures complex cylinder head temperature controllers, cylinder head shrouds and a variety of other parts for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Insitu Inc. Until recently, NWUAV ordered aircraft components from an outside vendor and performed sanding and other finishing processes on them prior to manufacture.

However, the parts purchased were often of an inconsistent quality, so NWUAV decided to manufacture them in-house to ensure their high quality. “Our greatest concern is meeting the tight tolerances and consistent quality that aircraft designs require,” says Chris Harris, president of MWUAV.

The company decided to manufacture plastic parts using laser-sintering technology. This technology can be used to manufacture parts for every phase of the product life cycle, directly from electronic data.

NWUAV purchased an EOSINT P 390 laser-sintering machine from EOS GmbH Electro Optical Systems, and in just 10 days, with assistance and training from EOS technicians, began making components.

The machine builds up to thousands of different products or components at the same time and in a single process. Once built, the parts are removed from the process chamber and the next order starts immediately. The build volume of the machine is 13.4 x 13.4 x 24.4 in.

The EOSINT P 390 is highly automated and features an Integrated Process Chain Management to optimize the process flow.  IPCM includes automatic powder conveying, an unpacking and sieving station with exchangeable frame docking system, as well as powder recycling.

“The P 390 provides us with consistent, uniform, high-quality production parts that eliminate the need for secondary finishing operations such as sanding,” says Harris. “An essential step in the process was tuning parameters to meet design criteria within 0.001 inch.”

NWUAV is now able to supply the components just-in-time and implement design changes within a couple of days rather than weeks. In-house manufacturing also has reduced the company’s supply chain and infrastructure costs such as part inspection, inventory and storage.

“The use of rapid manufacturing is booming in the aerospace industry,” says Jim Fendrick, vice president of EOS of North America.

For more information on laser-sintering systems, call 248-306-0143 or visit www.eos.info.