U.Va. Student Engineers Design, Build, Fly 'Printed' Airplane

It achieved a cruising speed of 45 mph and is only the third 3-D printed plane known to have been built and flown.


“To make a plastic turbofan engine to scale five years ago would have taken two years, at a cost of about $250,000,” Sheffler said. “But with 3-D printing we designed and built it in four months for about $2,000. This opens up an arena of teaching that was not available before. It allows us to train engineers for the real challenges they will face in industry.”

MITRE Corp. representatives and Army officials observed the fourth flight of Easter and Turman’s plane. They were impressed and asked the students to stay on through this academic year as part-time interns. Their task now is to build an improved plane – lighter, stronger, faster and more easily assembled. The project also is their fourth-year thesis.

“This has been a great opportunity for us,” Easter said, “to showcase engineering at U.Va. and the capabilities of the Rapid Prototyping Lab.”

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