Now this exists: A 3-D-printed drone

3689605147?profile=originalA 3-D-printed drone created by engineers from the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The vehicle, unveiled in March, is a remote-controlled glider about five feet wide that weighs just over four pounds and is composed of nine separate pieces that snap together.

Why do we need 3-D printed drones?

The team at Sheffield University says that in the future, the project could have applications from package deliveries to intelligence-gathering to search-and-rescue, with users able to tailor the vehicles to their own particular needs. The low production cost of the plastic drone "might lead to the printing of 3-D unmanned aircraft that could be disposable and sent on one-way flights," the researchers said.

Full article here: 3D Printed Drones

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  • Moderator

    Why not just print some of the parts instead of the whole thing.  I think a 3d printed airframe would too heavy and not strong enough for serious use.   I know this has been done before.  How well does it fly ? 

  • T3
    Right, it doesn't make sense for a larger drone but in the military, things aren't getting bigger but smaller and with the smaller size, they each become less expensive per unit and multiply in number so in those instances, it really does make a difference. You still have to carry around the other parts that make up a UAV but that's true regardless of what the actual frame is made of. For something large, even a Raven, it doesn't make sense but if the frame pieces snap together, it could still work.
    Moulds with foam is definitely a possibility too.
  • You mean 3d printers aren't the answer to all our problems? This is a huge let down, I was hoping to make perfect parts for everyone with my $199 printer and reshape unmanned history!! All of this could be tightly packaged for Kickstarter and I'll become urban rich!!

  • I get what you are saying but hear me out:
    If its a big drone you can't 3d print a replacement wing or elevon for it. If its anything like a spar or servo or motor you cant 3d print it. If its small you could carry 4 of each foam part and it'll still be lighter, faster and easier than dragging along a 3d printer ;) I guess if you have 10 drones to deploy then it becomes feasible very quickly. But then again, why not bring along the moulds and some foam pellets and cast any parts you need?

    I bet there will be future breakthroughs too. In any case there are arguments for and against is all I'm saying.
  • T3

    I think some of the appeal of 3D printing items like this is making something out in the field without having to go to the store to buy materials if you're out on a military mission of some sort. Sure, you have to carry all the other components with you but you're not having to carry around large pieces of balsa, foam, etc. For the average guy working in their basement building something, it doesn't make sense but what happens if the military breaks something out in the field? If you can print a replacement wing, elevon, whatever, that can be a decent technology to have.

    3D printing may be too hyped up in many respects and people may have unrealistic expectations but they do have good use cases.

  • With the materials we currently print with, it is cheap - a few cents per print actually. I have a 3d printer and would never waste my time 3d printing a plane when I have the option to use foam. Currently, foam is far stronger, more impact resistant, easier to modify, easier to repair etc. If you want light, why not use balsa? Or carbon? I agree that future tech will change the game, but until then 3d printed wings are a gimmick. Using a 3d printer for practical parts like brackets, spacers etc is unbeatable though.
  • Another thing, how much of the drone has to be actually printed to make it qualify as a "3d printed drone"? I bet the batteries, motor, wiring, servos, autopilot, or spars were not 3d printed. So that leaves the wing. Does that mean I can 3d print a pair of blades for my heli and call it a 3d printed heli? Ill 3d print a couple wheels for an RC car and call it a 3d printed car :) Yay cutting edge tech!!
  • Probably the only thing I don't like about this community is the amount of stuff that gets pushed as bleeding edge when it actually has been done for ages. World first this, worlds fastest that. Now this exists.. It existed a long time ago!! Thingiverse has publically downloadable 3d printed drones for ages and I bet they were not the first.
  • just a bit. lol

    everyone acts like they're going to turn into star trek replicators when that's never going to happen. honestly they're great tools for something's but can we get over the hype already?

  • Developer

    Leonard Hall's AVC copter was also completely 3d printed.  My understanding is that it allowed him to easily make a very aerodynamically efficient frame that was very light while still being quite rigid and included some custom features (ball dropper integrated into the frame).  He had problems with the frame shearing into pieces along the printing lines when it crashed though.  A moulded frame can probably survive a harder impact is my understanding.

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