3D Print Drones from General Atomics and Divergent Team

General Atomics, a leader in nuclear energy, has been making waves in 3D printing with several initiatives, such as the Conflux drop-in heat exchanger. By using 3D printing in industry, the company is saving on costs. However, their additive manufacturing (AM) involvement is more extensive than what is publicly disclosed. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, their subsidiary, is partnering with Divergent Technologies, which is known for producing luxury car components and supercars.

Divergent has designed six SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 12-laser metal 3D printers and recently secured a $100 million investment from Hexagon. The company has introduced a modern assembly line, called the Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS), which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive generative design, resulting in 3D printed and assembled models by robots. The system automates and enhances critical processes along the entire manufacturing chain.

The partnership between GA-ASI and Divergent has yielded two projects that saw the production of fully integrated 500-lb UAS aerostructures using AI-driven, model-based, and topology-optimized designs. The integrated metal framework achieved a 95% decrease in part count integration while still fulfilling weight requirements.

By using DAPS, the team completed an entirely automated and tool-free robotic assembly of the small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) in less than 20 minutes. The digital twin of the SUAS, developed by DAPS technology, evaluated each printed component, leading to a print-ready design and a completely built aircraft in less than two days. The project’s success is set to provide near-theater ramp capacity to support the warfighter.