3D Printed Quad Copter


I finally received my Makerbot Replicator (makerbot.com) and I am VERY impressed. After printing a handful of objects off of Thingiverse and dialing in my printer I promptly began work on my version of 3D printed quadcopter. I had a fair bit of practice using Google Sketchup from time is spent designing a handful of tricopters so naturally I started there. Sketchup is a very powerful program for being free and is very easy to learn, however there are some shortcomings to the program when it comes to 3D printing. I'll cover this in later posts but for now I would just like to show you my progress up until now. The incredible thing about 3D printing is how quickly you can prototype a concept. Sketchup is great for visualizing and object but it can never beat actually being able to hold it in your hand and inspect it. You get the feel of it. The weight of it. You can flex it and bend it. To flimsy? Add more material there. Overbuilt? Remove material here. It is simply incredible, a couple of late nights after work and I pretty much have the arms the way I want them.


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  • Exactly!  I'm sure some pieces could snap together but getting the tolerance right to make it tight would be really hard as ABS contracts as it cools.  But so far the press fit landing gears fit snugly after some light sanding.

  • Printed nuts and bolts from the 3D warehouse :-). What about making them snap together.

  • Jan, I will have to look into Rhino.  I am sure I will run into sketchup's limitations one of these days.

  • Mark, you are correct they are a long way from production ready.  The great thing is the ability to easily and quickly created customized parts for specific applications and tailor designs to specific missions.  The plastic is very cheap.  $40 dollars on average for a spool.  I have been printing for a month now and have barely put a dent in my rolls.  I will figure out how to calculate material usage but I doubt an arm costs more than a dollar.  It is the time to print that is the limiting factor.  About an hour for each arm and leg set with my current settings.  Brian.  I had not considered welding the pieces together with acetone but that is a good idea.  The only problem is being able to access the inside.  I was planing on using nylon hardware or possibly even printed hardware :)

  • Doug, Yeah I dont think the arms are that durable.  Thats very impressive.  They are surprisingly resilient though.  Just how much is yet to be seen, rest assured though they will get a proper torture test...  I will call it the Doug test.  The nice thing about 3D printed components is they are on average less than a dollar to re-print when they get busted.

  • Brian, I'm sure that once i start designing more complex objects I might have problems.  But right now it seems that as long as while you are designing you pay attention to inside/outside surfaces it is ok.  My exported .stl files have not had any errors in RepG yet.

  • I'm very curious about the cost of materials as well. 

    As far as construction. Did you consider welding the pieces together with acetone instead of using bolts or screws? That would reduce the weight and my understanding from others is the chemical weld using acetone is solid.

  • So how much does printing your own quad frame cost in materials?  I can get a DJI F450 for $32.. which looks like the same frame.  The other difference seems that you would have to bolt everything since you wouldn't have the press-in metal screw threads.   I am just wondering what the full frame costs in materials.  I think the MakerBot is cool for prototyping but probably has a long way to come for more general manufacturing.

  • Nice work and a testimony to the improvement of 3D hobby printing.

    Now, man up and see how tough it is by doing THIS testing procedure.  ;)


  • There is nothing wrong with Sketchup. I've tried other CAD programs and unless you want to spend countless hours learning how to do things "right" there is no need. Sketchup files can be cleaned up and exported into many formats. I don't have a 3D printer yet but I'm in for a new 8x8x8" Ultra-Bot, check it out at Kickstarter before Oct 5th when it be funded and closed.

    @Jan - What do you suggest or use for CAD? The thing that makes Sketchup so powerful and easy to use is the  push/pull feature. The only similar software I've found, that can be had for a reasonable cost, is ViaCad Pro v7.

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