Students build a 3D printed plane

3d printed plane

A student team has successfully designed, built, and flown a 3D printed RC plane using only $16 of plastic with a consumer-grade 3D printer (Makerbot), plus the necessary electronics and motor.

The folks over at the Wright Brothers Institute (WBI) have a great program called the AFRL Discovery Lab which brings teams of students, businesses, researchers, and government together to work on a specific challenge or opportunity.

One of the programs this year was the Disposable Miniature Air Vehicle, or DMAV for short. The student interns [Nathan, Ben, and Brian] spent the first 5 weeks at Tec^Edge designing the plane. The team went through 5 revisions before they settled on a design they believed could fly. The final plane weighed 1.5 pounds, and on its first flight… plummeted into the ground. Good thing they printed a second copy! After some more practice [Stephen] got the hang of it and was able to fly and land the plane successfully.

According to the WBI, this is the first functional aircraft that has been fully 3D printed (sans electronics) using FDM technology, and the first low wing 3D printed plane to be flown. Hate to burst their bubble, but 3D printed quadcopters have been around for quite a while!

Test flight video is after the break.

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Rubicon gives the Makerbot Digitizer a run for its money


Look out MakerBot, there’s a new 3D scanner on the block and it’s about 10% of the cost of the Digitizer. Enter the Rubicon 3D Scanner which just hit Indiegogo, a device much closer to being worth its price $199.

Just like the pricey Makerbot Digitizer it’s a very simple design made up of a webcam, two laser lines, and a stepper motor controlled turn table. Still very easy to make yourself, but at $199, it’s not a bad price for an all-in-one kit, especially compared to the Digitizer. The newcomer claims a much faster scan time (3 minutes versus 12), and the same stepper rotation (800 steps or 0.45 degrees per step). There are no details about making the design open source, but after some digging in the RepRap forums we found some discussion on that topic from designer [Robert].

It scans objects up to 160mm in diameter and 250mm tall, however it has the ability to scan marginally larger objects if the camera is moved farther back. The funding for the Indiegogo campaign will go towards a custom arduino-esq PCB with a motor driver built in – personally we would be interested in just getting the PCB and 3D printing the rest of the scanner ourselves!

More information is found in the video after the break. [Read more...]

A deck screw extruder


A lot of great ideas happen in the middle of the night, and for [Werner] it’s no different. One night he came up with an idea for a new 3D printer extruder, and after a very basic prototype, we’d have to say he might be on to something. It’s basically a deck screw acting as a worm gear to drive filament, but this simple idea has a lot of really cool advantages.

There are two really interesting features of this extruder, should [Werner] ever decide to flesh out his idea into a real prototype. First, the stepper motor for this extruder can be extremely small and mounted directly above the extruder. This opens up the doors to easily creating multi-extrusion printers that can handle more than one filament. Secondly, using a deck screw as a worm gear means there is a huge area of contact between the plastic filament and the driver gear.

Whereas the usual extruder setup only makes contact with the plastic filament along one or two splines of a hobbed bolt, [Werner]‘s design drives the filament along the entire length of the deck screw worm gear. This could easily translate into much more accurate extrusion without all the fiddling around with springs and hobbed bolts today’s extruders have.

In any event, it’s a very interesting idea, and we’d love to see [Werner] or someone else make a functioning extruder with this design.

Dual extruders in the space of one stepper motor


The new hotness in 3D printers is – and has been for a while – dual extrusion. With two extruders and the requisite filament supply, it’s possible to print objects in two colors or two different materials. There’s a problem with this setup, though: each extruder requires a separate motor, greatly reducing the print area should you want to print in two or more colors. [Carl] and [Brian] think they have the solution to this with their dual extruder that is powered by one stepper motor.

As you can see from the pic above, the idea is relatively simple. Two strands of filament are fed past one gear attached to a stepper motor. Each strand is moved into the hot end through two idler gears and side of the extruder feeds into the hot end is determined by the rotation of the motor. It’s really one of those, “why didn’t I think of that” ideas.

[Carl] and [Brian] are also offering a quad extruder, a dual-sized extruder able to pump four different filaments onto a printer bed. With this, we expect some people to experiment with CMYK (or CMYW) prints, truly turning any 3D printer into a machine that prints full color parts.

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DEF CON: Hacking Hardware and Cars

DEF CON Hardware Hacking Village

The first full day of DEF CON was packed with hacking hardware and cars. I got to learn about why your car is less secure than you might think, pick some locks, and found out that there are electronic DEF CON badges after all. Keep reading for all the detail.

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Printing an Aston Martin DB4


With 3D printers finding their way into the workshops of makers the world over, it was bound to happen sooner or later. [Ivan Sentch] is making an Aston Martin DB4 with a 3D printer.

Before we board the hype train, let’s go over what this is project is not: [Ivan] isn’t making any metal parts with his 3D printer, and the chassis and engine will be taken from a donor car. Also, the printed plastic parts won’t actually make their way into the final build; the 3D printed body panels will be used to pull the final panels in fiberglass. That being said, it’s still an impressive undertaking that’s going to cost [Ivan] $2250 NZD in plastic alone.

[Ivan]‘s body panels are made by taking a DB4 model in Solidworks, slicing it up into 105mm squares, giving each square extruded sides, and finally securing them to the wooden form after the parts are printed. There’s still an awful lot of work to be done once the 3D printed parts are all glued together, but it’s still an amazingly impressive – and cheap – way to create a replica of a very famous automobile.

3D printing with liquid metals


While 3D printers of today are basically limited to plastics and resins, the holy grail of desktop fabrication is printing with metal. While we won’t be printing out steel objects on a desktop printer just yet, [Collin Ladd], [Ju-Hee So], [John Muth], and [Michael D. Dickey] from North Carolina State University are slowly working up to that by printing objects with tiny spheres of liquid metal.

The medium the team is using for their metallic 3D prints is an alloy of 75% gallium and 25% indium. This alloy is liquid at room temperatures, but when exposed to an oxygen atmosphere, a very thin layer of oxide forms on a small metal bead squeezed out of a syringe. Tiny metal sphere by tiny metal sphere, the team can build up metallic objects out of this alloy, stacking the beads into just about any shape imaginable.

In addition to small metal spheres, [Collin] and his team were also able to create free-standing wires that are able to join electrical components. Yes, combined with a pick and place machine, a printer equipped with this technology could make true printed circuit boards.

Even though the team is only working on very small scales with gallium, they do believe this technology could be scaled up to print aluminum. A challenging endeavour, but something that would turn the plastic-squeezing 3D printers of today into something much more like the Star Trek replicators of tomorrow.

Video demo below, or check out [Collin]‘s editing room floor and a vimeo channel. Here’s the paper if you’ve got a Wiley subscription.

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