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The Age of the "Terminator" Is Here How Emerging AI-generated Designs, am and Robots Are Changing Drone Manufacturing

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Conference Abstract: For Defense and Aerospace users, AM has been, and continues to be a major area of interest, development, investment and ultimately; benefits. When we pass the stage of process and material qualification, and then move into the stage of using AM for "part substitution" slowly converting conventional parts into AM parts, the next phase becomes "part consolidation" where several items are unitized. With unitization, the design complexity typically increases. DfAM knowledge is always critical along the way, which sometimes limits the potential of some of the AM applications.

When we then employ AI-driven ML tools such as generative designs and apply it at a "system integration" level, the organic, complex and unitized designs that emerge are often "cool", but are either too big at a system level, or cannot be manufactured using conventional technologies. Enters AM!

When you optimize every process steps of the topology optimized design to include DfAM and assembly considerations, this leads to structures uniquely enabled by use of AM. When applied to large scale Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) a.k.a. drones; the structures need to be split into sections in order to fit 3D printers. By applying digital twining techniques and AI tools to optimize robotic assembly system, it is now possible to bring the % of the AM content on UAS from < 1% to upwards of 75%.

As a result, a complete marriage between digital design, AI and Machine Learning (ML) tools and AM, inspection/scanning and robotic technologies can now bring a full end-to-end low cost manufacturing solution for unitized airframe structures ranging from 300lbs to 3000lbs and beyond.
General Atomics, in partnership with Divergent Technologies, is bringing the Age of Terminators to the defense and aerospace markets where we can now bring large volume of aircraft to an engagement theater.
  • Andre Pate
  • Steve Fournier
    Sr. Manager, Additive Design & Manufacturing Center of Excellence
    General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.