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:

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • Developer
    I did some more checking and Shapeways will calculate the proper volume of concave objects. So contrary to my earlier belief, it should be possible to create certain "largish" objects at reasonable prices.
  • 3D Robotics
    @Lew: Actually all the 3D printers do this automatically. The software creates "honeycomb" internal structure, which uses just 20% or so as much material. Nobody actually prints solid objects. So those golf ball material calculations in this thread actually overstate the case by factor of 2-3x or so (depending on the ratio of outer skin to inner material and the thickness of that skin).
  • @Eli - It would be great if the machine could "air infuse" that plastic, except for the outer layers. This would make the cartridge last longer, as well as make the actual part lighter. Just as they "air infuse" some chocolate bars (in particular, ChocoLite) and similar solids, to save money (or calories).
    in the 70s, Food of the Seventies, Choco-lite Candy Bar
    70s Nostalgia page devoted to food of the Seventies
  • Anyway there at least 3 different opensource 3d printers arround.
    1 - the Reprap, there are 3 main versions Darwin, Mendel and now the mini-Mendel
    2 - MakerBot, it shares electronics with the Reprap project.
    3 - Fab@Home
  • @Chris--Your MakerBot link got a little funky (includes DIYDrones). This one should work -- MAKERBOT.
  • @Chris--I thought you had posted something a while ago about 3D printing. Here's an open source project I found--HERE
  • 3D Robotics
    I have and use a MakerBot, which is just $649:

  • Jason, if you do not mind me asking, how much did your mount cost you to have printed?
  • if you shell out for that printer (a dimension elite?), itll actually only cost 25 cents per cc. a cartridge holds 1000 cc's and costs 250 bucks. there is a small amount of support material used as well, but way less than a 1:1 ratio, most of the time. if they're charging ~2.50/cc, theyll recoup their loss on the machine (ignoring electricity usage) after about 12 cartridges of plastic (= a verrrrry long print job)
  • my bad; the material is PLA (polylactic acid) and it comes in a variety of colors =]
This reply was deleted.