The 3D printed ‘Iron Man’ suit — a perfect example of rapid prototyping in action
While 3D printing’s march towards becoming a full-fledged production technology shows no signs of slowing down, it is still a powerful tool for rapid prototyping. Traditional manufacturing technologies simply cannot match 3D printing’s speed, versatility and affordability when it comes to bringing visionary ideas to life for the first time. Even as 3D printing technologies becomes more and more common on the factory floor, we still expect to see innovators printing their designs to create functional prototypes. This way, people can see exactly what the finished product will look like and how it will work, helping the concept take hold in the viewer’s imagination.
A great example of this was the 3D-printed ‘Iron Man’ suit that UK-based Gravity Industries unveiled earlier this year. The suit allows the user to fly via the use of four arm-mounted thrusters and a jetpack. Steering is accomplished through subtle arm movements, with performance monitored in real-time through an AR helmet. The current version of the suit is capable of achieving speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour, depending on the terrain.
We understand that Gravity are already working on a new version of the suit that will incorporate 3D-printed metal parts, including an aluminium housing for the thruster. With a project like this, a huge number of iterations will be required before it is ready to go into production — a situation where 3D printing technology is truly in its element. 3D printing these parts will help minimise the cost of each iteration, helping to streamline and optimise the prototyping process.
This approach to rapid prototyping is increasingly common in industries such as Formula 1 and aerospace, where prototypes must be mechanically identical to the finished products for effective testing to take place. However, any growing business with an innovative idea (even one that they may have previously dismissed as unachievable) would benefit from exploring 3D printing in this way. Gravity’s efforts represent what can be achieved with imagination, perseverance, and the intelligent application of 3D printing technology.
We look forward to seeing the next iteration of the ‘Iron Man’ suit in action!
Image courtesy of Gravity.