Waterjet cutting keeps drones flying

Small-scale waterjet cutters provide drone engineers with the means to achieve meticulous cuts and designs
Small-scale waterjet cutters provide drone engineers with the means to achieve meticulous cuts and designs

Nisan Lerea, co-founder and CEO of waterjet cutting specialists, Wazer explains how modern CNC equipment can help accelerate drone manufacturing speed to market.

The soaring demand for drone technology has impacted numerous sectors, bringing innovative solutions to defence, public safety, healthcare, and construction to name a few. To keep pace, the drone industry must continually refine its products and its manufacturing processes to produce UAVs tailored specially for their unique job functions.

With the steady flow of innovation, refining every step of the manufacturing process, from conception to completion, is essential. However, challenges often arise during the design and manufacturing phases, which can hinder project progress and delay market entry.

The drone manufacturing process requires accuracy at every step. Even marginal errors in component fabrication can result in an unbalanced drone and compromise its functionality. Engineers often find themselves revising designs to reach requirements, and this can mean needing a variety of both standard and custom parts. These setbacks don't just strain budgets; they can disrupt tight production timelines, and a project's momentum. This need to repeatedly adjust and optimise designs highlights how essential it is to have the right tools on hand to facilitate rapid, precise adjustments.

Below is an overview of some of the common challenges:

  • Timelines: Rapid prototype iteration cycles can be challenging to achieve, especially with meticulous testing and refinement. Delays can hinder the progression of a product.
  • Quality control: Drones rely on balanced components, and can have multiple similar parts, such as the arms on their frames. For proper flight, these need to be precisely and consistently fabricated.
  • Speciality parts: Acquiring speciality components can introduce wait times and extra costs, which drags on production efficiency.
  • Cost: The dance between cost-efficiency and quality is complex, particularly in an industry with limited margin for error.
  • Safety: Lightweight composite materials, such as carbon fibre, can be difficult to cut or machine. They can delaminate, fray, or produce dangerous dusts or gasses when machined or cut with a laser.

Balancing speed, precision, and cost during manufacturing is a delicate act, and finding reliable solutions for specialised components can further complicate the process. Outsourcing parts is one way to acquire the needed components. However, in a turbulent economic climate with supply chain disruptions, outsourcing can introduce significant risks, including delays, increased costs, and quality issues. Advanced in-house manufacturing tools can offer solutions to these hurdles during this critical phase, driving efficiency and success.

Advancements in CNC manufacturing have been transformative. Furthermore, the advent of compact, desktop-sized machines for both additive and subtractive manufacturing has proven invaluable to drone manufacturers. Notably, small-scale waterjet cutters stand out, providing drone engineers with the means to achieve meticulous cuts and designs that defy traditional methodologies.

By sidestepping the need to outsource, in-house waterjet cutting technology grants drone manufacturers a significant edge. Designers can swiftly move from concept to prototype production, creating new parts in the same day to validate design iterations. Moreover, the inherent cleanliness of waterjet technology - especially when cutting materials like carbon fibre - delivers a safer work environment. The cold process of waterjet cutting also precludes any heat-affected zones, solidifying its position as a top tool in drone manufacturing.

Flight into the future

A small, accessible waterjet can play a pivotal role in keeping drones flying. Drones, susceptible to wear or damage, can require part replacements or upgrades. While some replacement parts may be readily available, others might be out of stock, discontinued, or come from distant suppliers. With an in-house accessible waterjet, drone engineers can produce on-demand replacements when needed that properly replicate the originals.

The drone industry's trajectory remains undeniably upward. With drones already playing pivotal roles in sectors from public safety to healthcare, their potential is boundless. Central to this forward movement are the visionary minds and innovative tools at the industry's core. As we've explored, technologies like CNC waterjet cutting are instrumental in refining the manufacturing processes, enhancing precision, trimming costs, and accelerating time-to-market. To keep pushing this industry's growth, equipping droning trailblazers with the latest and most effective tools is essential to future success.




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