3D Robotics

3D printing airplane parts at Shapeways

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

  • 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
    Art To Part - New Product Development - 3D Laser Scanning - Reverse Engineering - Consumer Product…
    New product development, project management, rapid prototyping, 3D laser scanning, reverse engineering, and CAD design.
  • 3D Robotics
    You know what else you can 3D print? MAV wings:

  • @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!
  • 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.

  • cool! i wonder if theres a solidworks command for that..... :)
  • 3D Robotics
    @Eli: I use Skeinforge on the MakerBot. It automatically creates a honeycomb/grid pattern inside:

  • @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.
  • @Lew - yeah, you're right, that website is horrible...
    Nevertheless, the product seems to sell itself because the guy running it can't keep up with the orders, even after quitting his normal job :)
  • @Chris - Ah, the honeycomb structure makes sense! On a side note, I went to the Mendel site after it was mentioned here. Maybe it's just me... but I'm amazed to find sites selling a product like this that fail to accurately describe (in summary form) what it is they're selling (or doing). Their landing page doesn't even have a summary of what the Mendel machine is, what it's used for, or how it's of benefit to the consumer.

    Again, perhaps I'm just used to a different bygone era of advertising, where the basics of marketing made all the difference in the world (deliver your message, clearly and succinctly, in a few summary paragraphs). I've hit upon many such sites lately, in which you have to basically guess what it is they're doing. If you already know about this stuff, that certainly suffices. But, it's a really poor way to get newcomers hooked on the products!
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