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With the demand for helicopters from both the military and civilian sectors growing by leaps and bounds, a company called MD Helicopters is using additive manufacturing or, as it is more commonly known, aerospace 3d printing to develop a new light weight scout helicopter.
The new helicopter will be built of light weight, composite materials, will feature a NOTAR rotor-less tail system, and, most importantly, will be powered by a single engine hybrid electric system. This will work wonders in fuel efficiency and sustainability.
Other helicopter companies such as Bell and Augusta Westland have used 3d printing for their aircraft in end use production, but it appears that MD Helicopters will be the first manufacturer to use the technology to produce load bearing structures. MD will also use 3d printing to build the hybrid electric power system. In theory, the additive manufacturing process will be capable to creating a lightweight, hollow structure that will have the durability and strength of conventionally built structures but with greatly reduced weight.
The new design is likely to be revealed at the 2015 Heki-Expo Convention. However the production model will not likely enter service for several years.
MD Helicopters has achieved rapid growth in recent years, increasing their production run from seven units to 52 by 2008. While helicopters, like any other aircraft, are built to last, a new helicopter that is built with 3d printing technology, with the attending advantages of light weight, durability, and fuel efficiency would be a state of the art advance. Thus it is hoped that demand will be stimulated even more than it already is for the new scout helicopter.