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I have been using ABS plastic sheet for many of my UAV designs for a couple of years now and it cuts great on the laser. Very durable and repairable parts and it is easy to fabricate with. It does stink though when cutting, so I would recommend using a carbon filter for the exhaust. No worse than any of the other plastics that have been mentioned here.
It cuts great and is quite strong and crash resistant. I usually us the black material that has a textured finish to one side. This material takes to tab and slot design quite well and you can use the ABS glue found for most pipes at the big box stores like Home Despot etc.
ABS is a very popular Laser Cutting material and is reasonably priced in sheets. I have used 1/16, 1/8th and 1/4 thk material in my machines with good success. It does smoke up the machine after exended use and I clean quite regularly.
It is far superior to Acrylic for durability and I don't think you can properly cut Polycarbonate on a laser with any success without significant charring of the edges which leads to cracking and unusable parts.
If you are not restriced to a laser cutter and can use a router to cut, and if it is possible to get sheets of Polyamide reinforced with glass fiber in your surroundings, I think this will be a good choise.
Its pretty light, the nylon gives it good flexibility and impact resistance and the glass fiber gives it good stiffness.
Acrylic is probably the lightest, and great tensile strength, but poor impact strength. PETG/Polycarbonate is close to the same density and definitely superior (much better impact strength) for a little more cost ($), the others are a bit heavier. We're using PETG for now. Check out tapplastics.com
Delrin/Fiberglass: heavy, weak at hole mounts.
CF: $$$, RF interference, hard to work with
For the bottom plate, we're tried 1/8" acrylic plate with 1/32 plate of birch plywood, lightly glued together, then using just wood for a top plate--the frame can survive a 4ft dead fall from hover (tried it). Any fall from 10+ft, whether it's CF, Fiber, Derlin, etc... *will break* or at least tear through the screws mounts, especially if it hits on a motor spar. Acrylic alone will crack if a spar bends.
We would like to try out some ABS since it's used in car fenders nowadays--not sure on it's rigidity though.
Basically any fall will break something, unless it's made of rubber :)
Did you end up using this thickness of acrylic for your center plates? If so, how did it hold up? I'm asking because there is a laser cutter at my university which would be able to fabricate 6.35mm (1/4") thick pieces of acrylic for my own quad project and I'm wondering how well they would work. Thanks.
I would not recommend acrylic for any part that withstands mechanical shock, such as base plates, sheets connected by bolts, etc.
Acrylic is very brittle and cant really withstand large impacts, not to mention holding metal bolts for too long...
i've been using it on some previous quadcopters, it works fine, but breaks on crash, however every time i had a serious crash some part of the structure broke, whatever material :)
I've been reading here and there how acrylic sheeting accumulates static electricity. This may or may not be much of a problem though...
You can use acrylic for the main plate of your quadrotor and it will fly ok, but if you have a bad landing or crash it will most likely break, also if you tighten the bolts too tight you can evin crack the acrylic. I would suggest you use either fibreglass/ carbon fibre, but there is also another plastic called Delrin which is much stronger than acrylic that you could also use.
Hope this helps