If you're at all handy with 3D drafting tools, you can have the most amazing objects printed for you at Shapeways. Above is just one example, a cockpit for a P-51 Mustang.


You can print in a wide range of materials, from flexible plastic to stainless steel. And it's remarkably cheap, usually around $2-$3 per cubic centimeter.


Shapeways can accept output from many 3D authoring tools, but I prefer Alibre, which is designed for physical objects and is affordable ($99). Lots of people use the free Sketchup, too, although because it's designed for virtual objects it can be a little tricky to ensure that your design will print properly. Others use everything from Blender (open source, crazy hard to use) to Solidworks ($5,000!).


Here's another example: an EasyStar FPV cockpit mount that Jason Short designed and 3D printed. Pretty cool, huh?




Coming out of the 3D printer:


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Comment by Eli Cohen on December 3, 2010 at 1:16pm
@Lew, from before - yeah, there is a "sparse" setting when you go to print. the thing is, the structural properties of most of this ABS stuff aren't a given, necessarily. i've had some parts break in interesting ways. if your parts arent going to have a huge load on them, like you want to make a little case for your gps unit and you wont crash on it, print quality doesnt matter a terrible amount, its just a lot nicer to hit "print" on a part with a bunch of compound curves and symmetrical hole patterns than to shape it in foam, make it out of fiberglass, sand it, and drill all your holes in it.
also, chris, i dont know how other printers do it but our sparse setting just increases the spacing between the tracks of ABS it lays down.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 3, 2010 at 1:38pm
@Eli: I use Skeinforge on the MakerBot. It automatically creates a honeycomb/grid pattern inside:

Comment by Eli Cohen on December 3, 2010 at 1:42pm
cool! i wonder if theres a solidworks command for that..... :)
Comment by Cre8it on December 3, 2010 at 1:51pm
I’ve had the luxury of owning a stratus dimension system (FDM) and Objet system (polyjet) and I wouldn’t fly either on flight critical parts. The resolution on the FDM system is very poor on any contour surface. Polyjet wins for me on proof of concept. Here is a part I ran last week for a pump (its sitting on a dime). No post processing.

Comment by Lew Payne on December 3, 2010 at 2:15pm
@Cre8it - That is really fascinating... as is the 16u resolution of the PolyJet. Compared to how I was thinking of molding some parts, I'm obviously living in the caveman era (which is why I'm a Geico customer). I very much feel as if the more I know, the less I actually know. Thanks for sharing!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 3, 2010 at 5:05pm
You know what else you can 3D print? MAV wings:

Comment by William Gross on December 3, 2010 at 5:51pm
Another good resource for 3D printing is also this website, http://arttopart.com/ They specialize in 3D printing and can also do 3D laser scanning if you need a part to be replicated
Comment by Conor Flynn on December 21, 2018 at 2:38am

And another is 3D Compare - message me for a free quote- we work to all finishes including prototype & end-product 

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