General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the world’s leading manufacturer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), radars, electro-optic and related mission systems, has signed a 3D printing agreement with Divergent Technologies, Inc. (Divergent) to support its Additive Manufacturing applications development efforts and implement a full digital manufacturing process for GA-ASIs products.
Divergent has created the Divergent Adaptive Production System, a data-driven approach to designing, fabricating, and assembling vehicle structures (DAPS). GA-ASI is collaborating with Divergent to bring this capability to its UAS line.
3D Printing Agreement with Divergent
GA-ASI began a joint development programme with Divergent in 2022, which resulted in a stronger strategic partnership across multiple platforms. Divergent is collaborating with GA-Additive ASI’s Manufacturing (AM), aircraft integrity, material, and design engineering teams to adapt, apply, and qualify its automobile industry-qualified technology to GA-aircraft ASI’s production. Divergent has grown in the automotive industry as a Digital Manufacturing process innovator, producing some of the fastest cars on the market, and has recently announced several car OEM adoption announcements.
“Throughout our 30 years of designing and developing advanced UAS, GA-ASI has been focused on implementing new capabilities into our manufacturing process. We’re working with Divergent to integrate their technology as part of our Additive Design and Manufacturing Center of Excellence strategy, with the goal of optimizing our design and manufacturing processes and providing next generation UAS at the lowest cost.”– David R. Alexander, President, GA-ASI
According to Kevin Czinger, Founder, Lead Inventor & CEO of Divergent, “Divergent has invented the first industrial digital manufacturing system. Leveraging innovations in artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and automation, DAPS can be used to build the underlying structure for virtually any vehicle – whether land, sea, air, or space – better, faster and more cost efficiently than traditional manufacturing.”
GA-ASI and Divergent have already completed two projects that resulted in a fully integrated small (500 lbs.) UAS aerostructure using model-based, AI-driven, and topology optimised designs. The integrated metal structure was 3D printed, resulting in a 95% reduction in part count integration while meeting weight targets.
The DAPS process inspected each printed component by creating a full digital twin of the small unmanned aerial system (SUAS), which was then applied to a fully automated, tool-less robotic assembly process that took less than 20 minutes to complete. In less than two days, the team went from a print-ready SUAS design to a fully assembled deliverable airframe. GA-ASI anticipates that this capability will enable near-theater ramp capacity to support the warfighter in the future.
This innovative design and manufacturing approach results in highly integrated weight and performance-optimized designs that naturally, but not exclusively, leverage AM technologies at a significantly lower airframe recurring cost, while also providing a rapid tool-less iterative design approach for multiple platform variants.
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