Owner, Chris Ryman admits he was immediately taken with the project and with Mr Maclennan’s vision.
“This sort of project satisfies our creative bent – the customer having one question ( can you make this?) and requiring multiple aspects of our experience, knowledge and capabilities to provide the best possible solution,” says Mr Ryman.
“It’s often said that you are effectively putting your IP on the table in that initial meeting, but in my view the customer is buying both capability and ideas. You may run the risk of them going to someone else with your suggestions for a better way of doing the job, but you need to trust that you have made the right impression to secure the work.
“Ross had the clear concept of using composite components – but to make it work out of composites and to take advantage of the material attributes we had to be very creative and follow a collaborative approach.”
The result is a cutting-edge outdoor flight simulator that demonstrates Australia’s innovation capability, marrying technology with composites in a world-first outdoor, high tech yet affordable flight simulator for pilot training schools, large and small.
Maximising the use of composite materials, the design takes full advantage of the many attributes: the ability to form
complex shapes, seamlessly joined and laminated for a smooth aesthetically appealing exterior and interior; their light weight, reduced part count, plus durability to withstand the harsh outdoor elements.
This is evident in areas such as the base structure, where the one-piece fibreglass moulding incorporates pylons for the motion drives, fork-lift points and integrated mountings for tie-down points.
At the heart of the simulator is the fibreglass spherical pod that sits on multidirectional-wheels their movement, giving the trainee pilots the sensation of flight in response to their control inputs.
Early challenges for the Ryman team included coming up with the design and laminate engineering deflection testing using FEA
One mould – multiple components
Clever design of elements of the outer shroud design have enabled four interlocking panels to be made from the one mould, minimising tooling, overall size and additional support structure, whilst significantly reducing start-up manufacturing costs.
The latter is critical to the success of the project, says Mr Ryman. “Start-up companies face significant financial hurdles in order to meet the tight budgets of the initial investment funding. For SynFlyt this represented the local pilot training schools and academies across Australia and New Zealand that have neither the indoor space, nor the budget to be able to afford
conventional $150k plus flight simulators.
“The business model will ensure it is within the budget of even the small (“Mum and Dad”) pilot training schools operating at airports across the country.”
While not a pilot, he enthuses about how the 3DOF replicates every aspect of the flight experience from the pressure on the rudder through the joy stick, to the exact replication of the plane’s controls, from the sensations of the plane’s movement in flight to the visuals projected onto SynFlyt’s 210° horizontal and 60° vertical screen. The training experience is further enhanced by Maclennan’s proprietary training
Supplier to investor
The project has so captivated Mr Ryman, both for its ingenuity and strong business case, that he has invested in SynFlyt and now sits on the board: “The company represented a good investment in light of the CASA regulators approving the use of flight simulators for up to 40% of new pilot flight training. In addition, there is well documented projections of high demand growth for pilot training internationally”.
Mr Ryman is clearly relishing the opportunity to contribute to such an innovative project. “It has not only been about design for manufacture but about optimising design.
“It’s all Australian, and we have a real desire to keep manufacturing here and exporting to the world. Whilst we are not relying on it, the low Australian dollar will certainly help.”
Savings with 3D printing
The SynFlyt 3 Degrees of Freedom (3DOF) flight simulator is a showcase for the potential of 3D printing in manufacturing.
Starting with smaller replica aircraft components such as levers, control buttons and connection parts, SynFlyt’s 3D printing specialists moved to producing more complex components such as housings for electronics, gears and instrumentation panels and replacing metal brackets with 3D printed brackets.
Now a 3 DOF flight simulator can have over 80 3D-printed components, achieving significant cost savings – like $73 on an $80 off-the-shelf circuit breaker – while reducing production and communication time, says Synflyt engineering director Ross Maclennan.