Stratasys and Optomec, two 3D prototyping and printed electronics companies, recently announced a joint venture in which they combined 3D printing and printed electronics to create what they're calling the world's first full printed hybrid structure--the wing of a UAV model.
The challenge in creating this hybrid structure, as Stratasys's Jeff DeGrange explains, is getting the delicate circuit material to print on a complex shape. Optomec's printing technology allowed them to do that because its print heads actually never touch the surface of the printed object, spraying a "jet" of circuitry over even curved surfaces. Both companies' print processes are additive, like our MakerBot, but with resolution that's much finer and controlled than what a hobbyist can build at home. Being able to print power circuits and antennas directly into the model means using fewer overall materials and a lighter (and more cost effective) final product, the benefits of which perfectly apply to something like UAV design.