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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  • @Ellison Chan: layer thickness on stereolithography printers is typically in the 100 microns range. Those beasts go for a slow average rated 20mm/hour... You just cannot compare your FDM printer resolution to stereolithography printers, it's worlds apart. We're talking basically laser resolution here (+resin crystal resolution, to simplify). And judging by the amount they have been funded so far (both B9 and Form1, the latter reaching USD 1.5M in no less than a week) and who's behind (hello Jon Hirschtick, founder of SolidWorks, -owned by Dassault Systèmes- behind the Form1), and finally getting the price to drop from a factor 100, well you have to admit... People are knocking down the door big big time and it is revolutionary :) Remember this project, "Arducopter", a quadcopter for USD$500? "Impossible!" they said a few years ago. Well, it's on for 3d printers now... Congrats to Mike to get this together, it's only the beginning!

  • @dudz - I did look at it when it was on Kickstarter a while back, however I would suggest looking and backing http://ultra-bot.com/ instead, for $899.

  • I don't want to go "off subject" too much here, but after looking at different affordable 3d printers with a large enough build envelope, I came across this machine that comes in Kit form and has a nice low price tag ; PrintrBot

    I know not allot about 3D printers. Does anyone have any exp with this one ?

  • Incidentally, there is a forum post about turning the case for the APM 2.0 into one for the APM 2.5, there was a file for an APM 2.5 case on Thingiverse, I wonder how well it fits? How much it weighs, costs to prototype, ect.   

  • Jay, I agree that a full analysis might indeed be a "time-suck" as you eloquently put it.

    Incidentally, I was not criticizing this design in particular. I was wondering if this production technology would force a change the way air-frames were designed in general.

  • Marty- good point.  I actually suspect a monocoque structure with varying degrees of fill (hex pattern) might produce a better strength/weight ratio, and less drag....  But rather than do a full structural analysis which is a time-suck and only as accurate as it's assumptions, I'd rapid-prototype the arms and test to destruction physically, just like the big boys do for wing tests.  Either start with light or strong, work towards the other until you get performance you're comfortable with.  The media cost is insignificant really, and it would probably go fairly quickly.  

  • Ruwan, his claims for this printer are very incredulous.  

    The results are amazing: the Form 1 can print layers as thin as 25 microns (0.001 in) with features as small as 300 microns (0.012 in) in a build volume of 125 x 125 x 165 mm (4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 in). This means you can print complex geometries with the exquisite details and beautiful surface finish that will make your creations stand out.

    Even the expensive SLS printer at Shapeways, can't do details much less than 1mm.  If he's really made an SLS printer that is capable of the level of details that he claims, it would be revolutionary.  People would be knocking down his door to license the technology.

  • Jani, these printers need a lot of tweaking to get the right extrusion temperatures, but the heated print platform greatly reduces, and I would say eliminates warping.

  • Two things:

    1. I see your comments on Rhino v. Sketchup; Has anyone considered using blender to export a .dxf ? (free and intuitive modeling software)
    2. Does anyone have the mechanical engineering background to evaluate the soundness of the design with this building material? I suspect that with the material in question, the angular struts might not be the most efficient way of producing a lightweight, rigid, and durable frame. Though I don't have the expertise to back this suspicion.
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