Awesome Looking 3D Printed RC Plane Is Full Of Design Considerations

Designing and 3D printing RC planes offer several interesting challenges, and so besides being awesome looking and a fast flier, [localfiend’s] Northern Pike build is definitely worth a look. Some details can be found by wading through this forum but there’s also quite a bit on his Thingiverse page.

Tongue-and-groove joint for the wing
Tongue-and-groove joint

Naturally, for an RC plane, weight is an issue. When’s the last time you used 0% infill, as he does for some parts? Those parts also have only one perimeter, making this thin-walled-construction indeed. He’s even cut out circles on the spars inside the wings. For extra strength, a cheap carbon fiber arrow from Walmart serves as a spar in the main wing section. Adding more strength yet, most parts go together with tongue-and-groove assembly, making for a stronger join than there would be otherwise. This slotted join also acts as a spar where it’s done for two wing sections. To handle higher temperatures, he recommends PETG, ABS, ASA, Polycarbonate, and nylon for the motor mount and firewall while the rest of the plane can be printed with PLA.

As you can tell from the videos below, [localfiend’s] flier is a high-performance 3D printed machine. But such machines don’t have to be relegated to the air as this RC jet boat demonstrates. Though some do hover on a thin cushion of air.

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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.

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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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