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Students 3D-print their own airplane

Print-and-fly might be standard practice for hobbyists and military personnel in the future.

Two brothers, both engineering students at the University of Virginia, flew a model plane last month as press and professors watched in amazement. What made this flight so special? The entire plane, 6.5-foot wingspan and all, was assembled with 3D-printed parts.

According to the article in Wired, the project is part of a jointly funded collaboration between engineering firm MITRE and the U.S. Department of Defense with the general goal of economizing expensive government programs — like the military’s current drone fleet.

We know we’ve been writing a lot about 3D-printing lately, but these stories are too cool not to share with you. It’s only fitting that our final post of the year feature one of 2012’s most prolific trends in engineering and manufacturing that is sure to grow exponentially in 2013 and beyond.

With this story, we’re excited about the good work being done by American university students and faculty, but we also know that a four-year degree (and additional graduate work) may not be the best choice for most young people. Instead, we like to read this story as evidence of 3D-printing’s positive development in the U.S. and its continued financial support from top engineering firms and the federal government.

Bottom line: 3D-printing is the next evolution of manufacturing, and the U.S. is poised to take a leadership role in global development and production. University students are already printing and flying planes. Soon, industry certification programs leading to lucrative and stable careers in 3D-printing will be a widely available path for U.S. students. Wouldn’t you want to have a job at the forefront of the next Industrial Revolution?

The future of 3D-printing is nearly as limitless as our imaginations. The government dreams of cheaper, faster building programs. We dream of a day when “mechanical delays” for flights during the holidays are solved by simply printing a new part and installing it on the aircraft. Hey, maybe you can help us out with that.

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photo credit: Podknox via photopin cc

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