Hefty 3D Printed Quadcopter Meets Nasty End

You can readily buy all kinds of quadcopters off the shelf these days, but sometimes it’s more fun to build your own. [Michael Rechtin] did just that, with a hefty design of his own creation.

The build is an exploration of all kinds of interesting techniques. The frame itself uses generative design techniques to reduce weight while maintaining strength, while the motors themselves make heavy use of 3D-printed components. The design is modular and much of it slots together, too, and it uses a homebrewed flight controller running dRehmflight. It draws 2.5 kW from its lithium polymer batteries and weighs over 5 kg.

The DIY ethos led to some hurdles, but taught [Michael] plenty along the way. Tuning the PID control loop posed some challenges, as did one of the hand-wound motors being 5% down on thrust.  Eventually, though, the quad flew well enough to crash into a rectangular gate, before hitting the ground. Any quad pilot will tell you that these things happen. Drilling into the quad with a battery still inside then led to a fire, which did plenty of further damage.

[Michael’s] quad doesn’t appear to be specifically optimized to any one task, and it’s easy to see many ways in which it could be lightened or otherwise upgraded. However, as a freeform engineering thinking exercise, it’s interesting to watch as he tackles various problems and iteratively improves the design. Video after the break.

27 thoughts on “Hefty 3D Printed Quadcopter Meets Nasty End

  1. I can understand using 3D printed parts, but with the easy availability and affordable cost of carbon fiber tubing I don’t understand printing the whole thing out of plastic. Adding the dovetails also adds a lot of unnecessary weight. So there you have a few hints if you want to make it lighter.

    1. Because many of these youtubers believe that if it isn’t 3d printed it is garbage and they can do it better with layers of plastic rather than a proven and tested method. much the same way independent submarine manufacturers do.

        1. It was not an attempt at humor it was a precise analogy. I understand doing prototyping with different materials to see what works and what doesn’t, but not learning from those who did the work before you is just stupid. The 3d printing community does this non stop from teaching tech to Thomas Sanladerer to pretty much all of them. Now if this youtuber decided hey instead of 3d printing the platforms for the motors let’s create a unique design and 3d print a custom press that we can sandwich layers of carbon fiber and epoxy in that would be a great use situation. instead they did just the opposite and 3d printed a weak design that countless others had tried before and failed at.

      1. Yet he is running Master Airscrew props. From the days of single cylinder glow. Built to take moderate % nitromethane powered instantaneous torque pulses.

        Overweight for electric motors, but in the old school way.

      2. If he just wanted a carbon fiber body he could have bought a kit. The point here is to learn, also he did an impressive generative design and even made his own motors. Many commercial drones have plastic bodies, nothing wrong with that. On the other side, many fpv drones use heavy carbon fiber sheets and does not really save weight.

    2. I’ll take “Just because I can” for $500 Alex…

      Mythbuster once made planes out of concrete. It may seems impractical but where there’s a way, someone will do it. 3D printing a quadcopter is just another example of this.

    3. There is actually a reason to do it, although it is not the best.
      I once made a mount for a motor (~500W) which was completly 3d printed. It had to be quite bulky to not get ripped to pieces by the motors own torque. I should have / could have make it from a sheet of aluminium.

      But that is manual labor and it takes time.
      If you can manufacture everything on a 3d printer you just have to hit print. Also its easier for other people to redo you project because the only tool you need is your printer.

      Also manufacturing time is less important because the maschine is working.

      All the disadventages however are still there and have to be kept in mind.

      1. “If you can manufacture everything on a 3d printer you just have to hit print.”

        Crediting 3d printing for it’s ease, cost and speed has to also consider it’s performance, both actual operational performance AND part failures. Yea, you “just have to hit print”, but if you’re breaking parts left and right because of 3D printing’s inherent weaknesses, or you have to compensate by overbuilding to the point the performance is compromised, that necessarily detracts from ease of manufacturing.

        And there are options between fully 3D printed and milled out of titanium (or aluminum). You could have printed the actual motor mounts, but used CF tubes for the arms – combining the ease of production while leveraging each material’s strengths. I think that was the OPs point – insisting on making the maximum use of 3D printing over better performing and readily available materials, is just doing it to say you did it. Which is ok too, if that’s your goal.

  2. I’ve always wondered if it would be possible to scale up a drone to a really large size by using a small drone and amplifying the signals that would otherwise go to the motors in order to drive larger motors. All of the other control mechanisms would remain the same, with the addition of course of a large battery. I’m not sure, though, how the controller would react if it wasn’t seeing the smaller batteries being discharged.

    1. Same here. Could one break the laws of man and common sense and simply toss a tiny drone controller based off a few MEMS sensors into a helicopter-sized beast and make a war machine? Hypothetically speaking of course

    2. There are a handful of companies that have done basically what you’re describing, large enough to carry people and other cargo.

      There’s even a company that’s trying to get a race series going, with piloted 12-copters or something like that.

      1. I wasn’t thinking of flying IN it … I was more thinking of how easy it might be for someone to make a pretty large weapon using a relatively inexpensive commercial hobby drone as a starting point. Adding a larger frame and larger motors seems like a pretty simple extension. Might even be possible to use chainsaw engines with modified throttles for longer range.

        1. The controller isn’t the biggest challenge. A large and heavy drone is easier to control: because of it’s bigger inertia everything goes (relatively) slow and your controller had more time to do it’s control things.
          Ever seen the flying bathtub drone?

    3. Multirotors vary the speed of their fixed pitch rotors to stabilize themselves in pitch and roll. As you scale up, the inertia of the rotors scales up faster than the required motor power, and you have slower control. Eventually you have to switch to variable pitch rotors, and then to a full swash plate, at which point you have a helicopter.

      The awesome dynamics of BLDC motors have definitely increased the cutover mass from fixed to variable pitch, but the trade-off is still there.

      1. Yes, certainly. But again, I was thinking in terms of a weapon that mostly just needed to fly from here to there without a lot of maneuverability. Mostly just the ability to stop/go/turn/fly higher/fly lower … all at a fairly slow change.

  3. That is a pretty beefy boi. And I second the question of why use 100% 3d-printed parts (which you don’t, it’s already held together with plenty of hardware and has motors and such)… of course the answer is youtube monetization so whatever

  4. “Drilling into the quad with a battery still inside then led to a fire, which did plenty of further damage.”

    Proving his/her worth, the latest rumor is that [Michael Rechtin] is negotiating a lucrative compensation package to be the “Drone Tsar” at either (or BOTH) The Walt Disney Company and/or Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV. Good luck with that /s

  5. Guys, is it OK to just enjoy something? I come to this site to see what other projects folks are working on. Why do so many folks on this site ask things like “why would you want to do that?”. He did it because he wanted to. That’s enough reason. If you need to ramble about why you think you’re wiser than the guy who took the time to build this project, maybe you need a project of your own to focus your energy on. I highly doubt there’s a single project on this site that I would consider “wise” or adhering to “best practice”, because those notions run counter to experimentation and inquisitiveness. The site is called hackaday for a reason.

    1. Seriously! Some of those posts above are NOT in the spirit of hackaday. I don’t care how smart or accomplished they are because here is a lot of learning when it comes to manufacturing your own parts.
      Those people should be ashamed of themselves.

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