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Engineers developing the Parrot AR Drone – a Wi-Fi ‘quadricopter’ controlled by Iphone, Ipod Touch or Ipad – have used Protomold from Proto Labs to create working prototype injection-moulded parts.

Parrot’s mechanical and design department required parts with the same mechanical characteristics as those that would eventually be used on the final, production version.

As with all flying machines – even toy ones – the strength and weight of components are critical attributes that decide the in-flight characteristics of a vehicle.

Parrot engineers loaded the 3D CAD models of the AR Drone components to the Protomold website.

A short while later, the company received an online quote incorporating an analysis of the manufacturability of the models and an accurate price for the finished parts.

This gives Parrot AR Drone prototypes characteristics comparable to production parts with the right material, the right colour, the right load and even the injection stress, revealing, for example, any weak points.

Guillaume Savoye, mechanical design engineer at Parrot, said: ‘We have very much appreciated the technical suggestions proposed by the Proto Labs team for improving the “mouldability” of the object.

‘Our prototypes were delivered promptly and we were completely satisfied with both the lead times and the quality of finish of the prototype parts.

‘It was particularly important for us to validate the concept with “right material” parts as soon as possible.

‘These enabled us to validate the assembly of the different parts and carry out performance tests prior to production,’ Savoye added.

Bernard Faure, technical sales manager at the Proto Labs France subsidiary, said: ‘Our Protomold system very rapidly produces real “right material” injected parts.

‘This enables a project to be validated in situ, including the necessary mechanical tests.

‘Thanks to the automation of our mould design and manufacturing processes, in most cases we can reduce by two-thirds the time required to obtain the first parts or prototype parts compared with conventional methods,’ Faure added.

The AR Drone contains micro-electromechanical systems, an accelerometer, two gyrometers, one ultrasound sensor and two cameras – one of which broadcasts and streams what the drone is seeing to the Iphone, Ipod Touch or Ipad.

The vertical camera, located under the aircraft, is connected to an inertial measurement unit, which enables the quadricopter to perform stationary flights.

The front-mounted camera plays a fundamental role in video gaming, using augmented reality technology.

For example, it can recognise an enemy AR Drone for aerial combat between two AR Drones (as with AR Pursuit).

Proto Labs

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Protomold delivers injection-moulded parts from moulds manufactured utilising state-of-the-art high-speed CNC machining technologies. Parts can be moulded using almost any engineering-grade resin and are ideal for prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production.

First Cut satisfies the need for functional prototypes much earlier in the development cycle for quantities of 1–10+. Because First Cut delivers prototypes in engineering-grade resins and aluminium they will have real material properties and improved surface finishes. In other words, they will be functional.

When you submit your 3D CAD model, Proto Labs’ powerful super-compute cluster creates an interactive quote giving pricing options and where appropriate, suggesting changes to improve manufacturability. You simply interact with your quote online, tailor options such as material and delivery to your requirements and with every change, the pricing information automatically updates. This built-in ‘what-if’ analysis enables last-minute project refinements to be accommodated at the click of a button.

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