GA-ASI partners with Divergent Technologies on UAS
Looking to introduce DAPS into digital fabrication of vehicle structures
In a major development for the introduction of AM production capabilities into the defense sector, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the world’s leading manufacturer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), radars, electro-optic and related mission systems, has partnered up with Divergent Technologies, Inc. to support its additive manufacturing applications development efforts and implement a complete digital manufacturing process for GA-ASI’s products. Divergent has developed a data-driven approach to design, fabricate and assemble vehicle structures called the Divergent Adaptive Production System, or DAPS for short. GA-ASI is working with Divergent to apply this capability to manufacturing its line of UAS.
“Throughout our 30 years of designing and developing advanced UAS, GA-ASI has been focused on implementing new capabilities into our manufacturing process,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “We’re working with Divergent to integrate their technology as part of our Additive Design and Manufacturing Center of Excellence strategy, with the goal of optimizing our design and manufacturing processes and providing next-generation UAS at the lowest cost.”
In 2022, GA-ASI began a joint development program with Divergent, which led to a stronger strategic partnership on multiple platforms. GA-ASI’s Additive Manufacturing (AM), aircraft integrity, material and design engineering teams are working with Divergent to adapt, apply and qualify its automobile industry-qualified technology to GA-ASI’s aircraft production.
Divergent has grown as a Digital Manufacturing process innovator in the automobile sector, producing some of the fastest cars on the market with several recent car OEM adoption announcements. In 2014, the company formed the manufacturing foundation of the highly celebrated Czinger21 hypercar, at a time when no one was really contemplating the possibility of 3D printing full car structures using PBF technologies. This approach provided key insights into the development of SLM Solutions’ giant NXG XII metal 3D printer line.
“Divergent has invented the first industrial digital manufacturing system. Leveraging innovations in artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and automation, DAPS can be used to build the underlying structure for virtually any vehicle – whether land, sea, air, or space – better, faster and more cost-efficiently than traditional manufacturing,” said Kevin Czinger, Founder, Lead Inventor & CEO of Divergent.
GA-ASI and Divergent have already completed two projects leading to a fully integrated small (< 500 lbs.) UAS aerostructure, leveraging model-based, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven, and topology-optimized designs. The integrated metal structure was 3D printed, which led to the reduction of the part count integration by over 95% while meeting weight targets.
The DAPS process inspected each printed component by creating a full digital twin of the small UAS (SUAS) that was then applied to a fully automated, toolless robotic assembly process that took less than 20 minutes to complete. This process enabled the team to go from a print-ready SUAS design to a fully assembled deliverable airframe in less than two days. GA-ASI anticipates this capability will allow near-theater ramp capacity in the future to support the warfighter.
This innovative approach to design and manufacturing leads to highly integrated weight and performance-optimized designs that are naturally – but not exclusively – leveraging AM technologies at a substantially lower airframe recurring cost, while providing a rapid tool-less iterative design approach for multiple platform variants.