Planes these days are super complicated – think about the recent flaming-lithium battery issues in the B787 that may or may not have been solved – but it wasn’t always this way. Here’s a great example. The manufacture of a Piper J-3 Cub shows simple and efficient mechanical design brought to life in a multitude of steps all performed without automation.
The build starts with the frame. Pipes are nibbled into specialized fish mouths for a tight fit before being strapped to a jig and tack welded. With the fuselage in one piece the frame is removed for each joint to be fully welded and subsequently inspected. Cables are run through the frame to connect control surfaces to the cockpit. Continuing through to wing assembly we were especially surprised to see hand hammering of nails to secure the wood ribs to metal spars. How many nails do you think that worker pounded in a career? The entire aircraft is covered in fabric, an engine is added, and it’s into the wild blue yonder.
The look back at manufacturing techniques is interesting — do you think the large model shown in the video would be built these days, or would they just use a CAD rendering?
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Build Yourself An Airplane”
3D Printers are only good for printing trinkets and doodads, right? Not really. Although, I do print the occasional useless object, most of my prints are used for projects I’m working on or to meet a need that I have. These needs are the project’s design requirements and I’d like to share the process and techniques I use when creating a functional 3D object.
My pal [Toshi] has RC Airplanes and flies often. I have an Action Camera that I never use. Why not combine the two and have some fun? The only thing standing in our way was a method to mount the camera to the airplane. 3D printing makes it easy. If you have a popular vehicle or application, there may be something already available on a 3D model repository like Thingiverse. Our situation was fairly unique I decided to design and print my own mount.
Continue reading “3D Printering: Custom RC Camera Mount Takes To The Sky”
We’re actually going to link to an old post from back in February because we think it’s equally as impressive as the most recent work. This is a 3D printed ornithopter powered by a rubber band (translated). The frame is much like a traditional rubber band plane. The difference is that after winding it up it doesn’t spin a propeller. The flapping of the four plastic membrane wings makes it fly like magic. Seriously, check out the demo below… we almost posted this as “Real or Fake?” feature if we hadn’t seen similar offerings a couple of years back.
The flight lasts a relatively long time when considering the quick winding before launch is all that powered it. But the most recent offerings (translated) from the site include the motorized ornithopter design seen above. It carries a small Lithium cell for continuous flight. These designs have a 3D printed gear system which makes them a bit more complicated, but brings steering and remote control to the party. If you want one of your own they’re working on a small run of kits. We figure it’d be a lot more fun to prototype and print your own. Sure, it’s reinventing the wheel. But it’s a really cool wheel!
Continue reading “Amazing flight of a 3D printed rubber band powered ornithopter”
So you see an image like this and the description “Aircraft stable oscillator” on an eBay listing for twenty pounds (about thirty bucks), what do you do? If you’re [Alecjw] you buy the thing and crack it open to find an atomic clock source inside. But he really went the distance with this one and figured out how to reconfigure the source from the way it was set up in the factory.
First off, the fact that it’s made for the aerospace industry means that the craftsmanship on it is simply fantastic. The enclosure is machined aluminum and all of the components are glued or otherwise attached to the boards to help them stand up to the high-vibrations often experienced on a plane. After quite a bit of disassembly [Alec] gets down to a black box which is labeled “Rubidium Frequency Standard”… jackpot! He had been hoping for a 10 MHz signal to use with his test equipment but when he hooked it up the source was putting out 800 kHz. With a bit more investigation he figured out how to reconfigure the support electronics to get that 10 Mhz source. We think you’re going to love reading about how he used a test crystal during the reconfiguration step.
Once he knew what he had he returned to the eBay seller and cleared out the rest of his stock.
[Thanks DIY DSP]
Whatever candidate (if any) you’re in favor of, we could bet that you’re probably tired of seeing advertisements and political signs everywhere. [Mark] wrote in with a hack that allows you to actually use these signs for something fun, making a RC airplane!
[Mark] gives a full bill of materials in his article, but the featured component is campaign sign. This isn’t LawyerADay, so we’re not sure of the legality of taking them. After election day at least, it’s doubtful anyone will care. Of course you’ll also need a motor, prop, and RC controls, as well as some dowels to attach the tail section to the main body, so don’t buy the “campaign promise” that this is a free airplane.
CAD diagrams are available of the cutouts, as well as how to cut the signs to form hinges without any other parts. This is quite clever, and a video of the plane in action on a table is available on the site. According to [Mark], no video was rolling on its test flight, but it did fly before some interference grounded the plane. Hopefully he’ll be able to get some footage of it in action soon!
Being a member of the FPVlab forums, [HugeOne] is really in to strapping a video camera to RC airplanes and flying around by the seat of his pants. He’s also in to flying his plane at night. Combine these two interests, and you’ve got 300 watts of LEDs flying around at night, most likely causing a spike in UFO reports in [HugeOne]’s native Quebec.
The main issue with putting 16 CREE XM-L LEDs in such a confined space is the issue of heat; even though these LEDs are amazingly efficient, they still produce a good amount of heat. [HugeOne] solved this problem by soldering these LEDs to a piece of copper pipe and connecting two radiators to his plane for liquid cooling.
The result is a small, lightweight LED array capable of producing more than 20,000 lumens flying around the wilds of Quebec. This greatly improves [HugeOne]’s night flying ability (video after the break), and has surely annoyed the local police department with an increase in UFO reports.
Does anyone know how bright the nav and landing lights on single-engine passenger airplanes are?
Continue reading “Putting 300 watts of LEDs on an RC plane”
We’ve got something of a love affair going on with quadcopters, but there’s still room for a little something on the side. This fixed-wing drone can pull off some pretty amazing navigation. MIT’s Robust Robotics Group is showing off the work they’ve done with the plane, culminating in a death-defying flight through a parking garage (video after the break). This may not sound like a huge accomplishment, but consider that the wingspan is over two meters and repeated runs at the same circuit brought it within centimeters of clipping support columns.
Unlike the precision quadcopters which depend on stationary high-speed cameras for feedback, this drone is self-contained. It does depend on starting out with a map of its environment, using this in conjunction with a laser rangefinder and inertial sensors to plot its route and adjust as necessary. We think the thing must have to plan a lot further ahead than a quadcopter since it lacks the ability to put on the brakes and hover. This is, however, one of the strengths of the design. Since it uses a fixed-wing approach it can stay in air much longer than a quadcopter with the same battery capacity.
Continue reading “Autonomous fixed-wing drone threads the needled in a parking garage”