Posted By Emma Moreau on Nov 10, 2020 |
Who is Nicolas Chaslot?
Nicolas Chaslot is what we can call a first-time enthusiast. He started his career in the drone industry ten years ago as an autodidact. After discovering this sector, thanks to the internet, he started developing his first drones, but this is after he entered engineering school that he was able to make his passion a profession.
Nicolas, can you tell us more about your professional background?
The drone industry and sector have always been something that challenges me. At first, I created machines for my classes in school. Then I started making machines for clients. Thanks to my education, I managed to create more and more machines. I then launched Vamatis, which allowed me to create machines more professionally.
Can you tell us more about Vamatis?
The main objective was to provide my skills in the construction of machines. It was mainly about answering and helping the clients on specific projects conceiving specific machines for precise calibrations, particular flight conditions, etc. It was about consulting for companies or individuals who wanted to carry on specific tasks.
On what kind of specific projects are you working?
One of the cases that I have seen most often is the realization of stabilized structures for specific sensors or a set of sensors. For instance, I worked for the solar panel industry. I had to find a solution to mount a thermal camera with a visible camera on the same drone. I had to make sure that the two cameras had the same angle of view in all circumstances. The purpose of this drone was to inspect the fields of solar panels. Therefore, the idea was to quickly, and in a single flight, collect different types of information: cracks, dirt, debris, and thermal information to ensure the proper functioning of the farm.
How did you get to 3D Printing?
I started 3D printing even before I began creating drones since I discovered it thanks to Adrian Bowyer’s work on the RepRap project in 2009. I found the concept of having a machine creating other machines super exciting, so I started to get into this by making one machine and then a second. They allowed me to do a lot of things and especially drones when I started making them.
How did 3D Printing allow you to conduct and develop your projects? What is your use of this technology?
I use 3D printing at different stages of my projects. First, I use it to prototype or to validate an assembly, a series of dimensions. Then I can use it to make parts that are too complex for traditional manufacturing methods, aesthetic elements, for instance.
When it comes to working on a project with 3D printing, here is how I usually do it.
At first, I quickly draw the project by hand to have a good overview of what design I want to create. Then I draw a first CAD version to have a better view of the design. Once I’ve done that, I start to think about the parts one by one: the ones that are mechanically loaded and the ones that are only for aesthetics or protection. Then I can sort the pieces into a “probably printed” category and a “probably machined/casted” category.
I often make the prototypes in FDM for machined parts to quickly check my dimensions, especially when I have to adapt to existing geometries. For instance, a sensor needs to be mounted for which we do not necessarily have the manufacturer’s 3D file. Using FDM allows you to make a super quick and inexpensive prototype to ensure that everything is going well before launching the manufacturing process, which could be more expensive. For instance, it is relevant to use FDM for a folding arm mechanism. We can validate it in 2 or 3 prints and be sure that it will be right before manufacturing it in aluminum.
Regarding the printed parts, I think about the surface condition I want to obtain and the part’s geometric and mechanical constraints. Depending on that, I choose to go with SLA (which I can easily do internally) or SLS that I subcontract to have them carried out. I often manage to make at least one prototype in SLA or FDM when working with SLS to validate that everything is ok. The significant advantage of 3D printing is, above all, making complex shapes with specific interior structures that traditional manufacturing techniques could not achieve in one piece.
What are the challenges of 3D Printing in the drone sector?
I think 3D printing has a real advantage over making certain parts of finished products because it allows you to make geometries that just aren’t possible otherwise. But one of the dangers for me is wanting to do everything in 3D printing: that’s good, and these are great projects, but it’s not necessarily sustainable/viable depending on the constraints of making drones.
What is your point of view on the future of 3D Printing?
On the one hand, 3D printing makes it possible to decentralize production and manufacture many pieces quickly. We witnessed it with Covid19: companies that have started to manufacture visors, etc. It allows you to do a lot of things quickly and efficiently. But the problem is that 3D printing mainly uses plastics, which is not ideal for the environment. There is, therefore, a risk of falling between the fact that it is practical and efficient and the fact that the materials used are not necessarily good for the environment.
Speaking of sustainable solutions, did you know that the 3D Printing sector works with more and more bio-based materials? These materials allow manufacturing parts with bio-based polymers, which are more sustainable.
Oh no, I didn’t know. This is great. It is essential that 3D printing lives with its times and renews itself according to different demands and constraints.
With the drone industry and Nicolas Chaslot’s interview, we can once again see one of the many applications of 3D Printing. Thanks to new and more robust materials, 3D printing can provide more efficient parts for drone manufacturing. Learn more about how 3D printing could help you realize your drone projects in our article: the best 3D printed drone projects.