3D Printing RC Airplanes that Fly: An Engineer’s Chronicle

In the past, creating accurate replicas of models and fantasy objects was a task left to the most talented of cosplayers. These props need not be functional, though. [Steve Johnstone] takes replica model-building to the next step. He’s designing and building a model airplane that flies, and he’s documenting every step of the way.

Armed with a variety of 3D printing techniques and years of model-building experience, [Steve] is taking the lid off a number of previously undocumented techniques, many of which are especially relevant to the model-builder equipped with a 3D printer in the workshop.

As he continues his video log, [Steve] takes you through each detail, evaluating the quality of both his tools and techniques. How does a Makerbot, a Formlabs, and a Shapeways print stand up against being used in the target application? [Steve] evaluates a number of his turbine prints with a rigorous variable-controlled test setup.

How can we predict the plane’s center-of-gravity before committing to a physical design? [Steve] discusses related design decisions with an in-depth exploration of his CAD design, modeled down to the battery-pack wires. Though he’s not entirely finished, [Steve’s] work serves as a great chance to “dive into the mind of the engineer,” a rare opportunity when we usually discover a project after it’s been sealed from the outside.

3D printing functional parts with hobbyist-grade printers is still a rare sight, though we’ve seen a few pleasant and surprisingly practical components. With some tips from [Steve], we may complete this video journey with a few techniques that bump us out of the “novelty” realm and into a space where we too can start reliably printing functional parts. We’re looking forward to seeing the maiden voyage.

via formlabs forums

14 thoughts on “3D Printing RC Airplanes that Fly: An Engineer’s Chronicle

  1. This is considerably better of an idea than a lawnmower. I believe there is now a commercially available extruder printer that also co-extrudes carbon fiber to boost the strength to weight ratio. That might prove useful for an application such as this.

    1. I have no idea if this is actually that good and I have no affiliation with this company but this seems like it might be useful, in theory.

      https://markforged.com/

      Carbon Fiber CFF™ Filament
      Kevlar® CFF™ Filament

      Attempting to patent their filaments is kind of a dick move though.

  2. This is very cool.

    Am I missing something? It looks like he has made an EDF (electric ducted fan) and not what I think of as a “turbine.”

    Now you have gone and gotten my hopes up :-/

  3. I have watched all of his videos, he is immaculate on the details, wish that he would actually show some of the testing within the videos. its really difficult to watch a 20-30 minute video on just going over the details without showing any of the cooler pieces like testing.

  4. Wow, my wife sent me this link after mentioning that there had been a lot of new subscribers on my YouTube channel.

    No one has ever blogged about me and I’m on cloud 9 after reading the article and the kind comment from everyone – thankyou.

    I’m hoping to make a start on the fuselage for the Hunter in the next couple of week and will document as much as I can. For more comprehensive details be sure to check out my build log on RC Groups – http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2085592

    Thanks again all!

    Steve

  5. Wow, my wife sent me this link after mentioning that there had been a lot of new subscribers on my YouTube channel.

    No one has ever blogged about me and I’m on cloud 9 after reading the article and the kind comment from everyone – thankyou.

    I’m hoping to make a start on the fuselage for the Hunter in the next couple of week and will document as much as I can. For more comprehensive details be sure to check out my build log on RC Groups – http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2085592

    Thanks again all!

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