3D Fantasy of the Week: Onboard 3D Printers Producing Aircraft?

A UAV being magically 3D printed in real time while onboard an aircraft

I’m watching a very curious video from BAE Systems that proposes a currently – and likely always – impossible 3D printing feat. 

The report proposes that smaller aircraft could be produced ON BOARD a larger aircraft and then launched to execute missions of various kinds. 

They even provide a video of how this would work:

In the image at top, the video shows how a drone-like craft is being “printed” using an unspecified additive process (sideways) while in the belly of a larger aircraft. 

This drone is then launched and itself launches a small drone to  reduce a hapless stick figure stranded on a cartoon house. 

This concept is so far from reality it’s not even funny. 

There is no process that could produce such a complex piece of equipment that quickly, that remotely. This could not be done at slow speed, as the drone would necessarily contain a wide variety of internal complex parts and electronics that cannot presently be fabricated with 3D print equipment. 

But even if you somehow had this magical technology, would you even use it in this way? 

I suspect that creating specialized, single-use aircraft is likely an economically infeasible exercise. It would be like the space program using “one shot” rockets instead of reusable equipment like airlines. 

On the other hand, if the single-use aircraft could be recovered and recycled in some manner, that may mitigate the issue. Except that the recycling itself would take considerable energy. 

This concept is pure fantasy. And somehow I am not surprised, as the last time I noticed something from the same company, BAE Systems, it was proposing a mysterious chemical-based additive manufacturing process that was similarly outlandish. 

But not as much as this one. 

Via BAE Systems

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