SynFlyt – Off to a flying start

SynFlyt – Off to a flying start

By using 3D printing, an Australian flight simulation group was able to reduce its potential manufacturing costs by 90%.

Australian flight training businesses have always faced challenges in offering adequate simulated training to cadets because of the limited facilities available and a lack of economic resources. Most flight schools can only provide outdoor practices, with minimal indoor simulation training because the cost of the average flight simulation system exceeds most budgets.

SynFlyt, a Sydney-based specialist flight simulation company, was formed in 2011 to improve this situation by developing and building its own range of three-degrees-of-freedom (3DOF), full-motion aircraft simulators. SynFlyt’s products are designed to simulate light aircraft, gliders, single-engine jets, touring aircrafts and chase planes.

However, finding a way to reduce production costs was no easy task, because everything on the simulators had to be customised. Costs could easily exceed $100,000 for one customised simulator. To tackle this problem, SynFlyt employed a uPrint 3D Printer to produce parts and components for its newly developed simulators.

“In the initial phase of selecting a 3D printing solution, Stratasys emerged as an early leader through its outstanding level of service,” says Ross Maclennan, Managing Director and Engineering Director at SynFlyt. “But it was soon clear that our functional requirements were best matched through the uPrint system and its ABSplus thermoplastic. The plastics are durable, and the printer is easy to manage.”

Leveraging uPrint’s fused deposition modelling (FDM) technology, SynFlyt’s specialists printed a range of aircraft components, such as levers, control buttons and connection parts. SynFlyt then assembled them in a replicated cockpit to provide realistic interaction with any aviation model housed. Coupling innovative software for flight dynamics that optimised the craft’s movements with movable 3D-printed gadgets, SynFlyt’s simulated training system lets trainees feel as if they’re operating a real plane.

Flexibility and cost savings
After its success in printing small parts, SynFlyt began producing more complicated components to address different flight settings. For more complex assemblies such as circuit boards or mechanical parts, a specialist could 3D-print two or more concept models to compare different designs before coming to a final decision. Changing designs could be as simple as making a few iterations in the 3D printer’s software.

SynFlyt continued to prototype different parts of an aircraft cockpit, such as housings for electronics, gears and instrumentation panels. Now a 3DOF flight simulator may include more than 80 3D-printed components with varying levels of intricacies.

The uPrint 3D printer has also achieved SynFlyt’s primary goal: cost savings for itself and its clients. Previously, purchasing one circuit breaker off the shelf could cost around $80. Using 3D printing, a specialist can produce the same part for around seven dollars, saving more than 90% – all while compressing production and communication time.

Today, SynFlyt is ready to establish itself as a supplier of affordable 3DOF flight simulators for local flight academies in Australia and New Zealand. The adoption of 3D printing technology has provided the company with the ability to respond to clients with quick and cost-efficient solutions to their problems, benefiting both flight schools and cadet pilots.

“Our uPrint 3D printer ensures our clients are happy with our products, which are highly accurate, functional and durable,” says Maclennan. “And we have been able to put more effort into R&D and building the parts we need rather than buying expensive, off-the-shelf-type, specific aircraft parts. Without our uPrint 3D printer, it would be impossible to obtain.”