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Dec 03, 2018, 09:55 AM
My planes plow into the field
farmertom's Avatar
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Is 3D printing rc airplanes dead?

The posts here have been pretty sparse. Is everyone busy with something else or have all given up with printing rc airplanes?
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Dec 03, 2018, 10:41 AM
It flies? I like it!
I was wondering the same thing.

It's been a while since any new designs have appeared around here, and the few that have shown up on Thingiverse don't appear to be fully thought out, like the 3DLab, Aerofred, Shark Aero and Eclipson ones were (which have hinge pockets, pushrod guides, etc. etc. etc.). I have continued to fly mine, and have made my peace with the differences and the weight. It is more like the old days (1970/80's) than the new "guaranteed success" foam soap bubbles... and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The more I fly them, the more I like them.

I am trying to train a "probably too old" 2D CAD brain to do Fusion 360 and finding ENORMOUS amounts of respect for all of you that dove into this. I have been OpenSCAD-ing all the parts and sub-assemblies I've needed to 3D print for a couple of years, but a whole model is quite an undertaking!

I am hoping it's not over, but if it is... it was a lot of fun.
Dec 03, 2018, 10:43 AM
Retired CAD guy
birdofplay's Avatar
After almost two years of fooling around ,
I took a look at the foundations and philosophy surrounding 3dp planes.

Have you seen my conclusions here ?

For some I am sure there is a challenge that must be met.
Just like there is some mountain to be scaled.

As for me,
I've returned to my roots in the Scratch Built Foamys forum.
It brings together all my CAD and CNC skills and other ancillary interests.
making my RC hobby time More Fun.
I've always thought that .. IF it ain't FUN don't do it !

That said I still use my 3DPrinter for "Stuff" where it makes sense.
I just received a 50MM EDF and found it has no mounting lugs.
I wanted to mount on a pylon like a B-52 , 707 or similar.
So I whipped up an easily printable Band mounting part hold down with lugs .

So As you see I have no hard feelings about 3dp , and it's still fun for the right projects.
Last edited by birdofplay; Dec 03, 2018 at 10:58 AM.
Dec 03, 2018, 11:00 AM
It flies? I like it!
Bird, I tracked your frustration over the last few years and read your dissertation. I however, cannot bring myself to condemn the designs, underlying premises or practice for fear of becoming like the people that hated ARFs, or foam airplanes, or ???

The biggest difference between your and my experience with 3D printed airplanes, is that I did stuff equipment into *EVERY* printed airframe and flew it. It was then I discovered that my "feel" for what is going to fly well, had really changed from the days of Top Flite scale models (20-32 oz/ft^2 wing loadings) and other balsa airplanes from the 70's and 80's and been replaced with the "must be light as a feather" that the foamies have given me. I found I missed "flying on the wing" as it has largely been replaced by ludicrous power loadings in a thrust vectoring platform that does not even need a wing! (Yes, fun too, but in a different way). My AeroFred stick came in on the low end of the recommended weights printed on the box of the balsa kit (4lb ready to fly). As if that wasn't good enough, I re-printed one on the Prusa and it lost another 6 oz.... seems my old off-brand printer may have been squirting out a bit too much plastic despite having "calibrated the extruder".

To each his own, there are tons of fellows that despise the foam airplanes as lacking soul or being disposable (they do, and they are... so what?). I think with a few more years of material science thrown at FDM, a lighter material *may* appear and make the point moot. I was the guy flying NiCD when it was too heavy, but I wasn't going to wait... Then NiMH which was only marginally better... truth be told, Lipos are still a far cry from "ideal" and it's really "bleeding edge" on the bigger EDFs and such which have painfully low endurance... but I am not going to wait for the next battery technology (which may not occur in my lifetime).

I am hoping it's not over. There was an awful lot of talent and enthusiasm down this path that will be missed.
Last edited by Lomcevak; Dec 03, 2018 at 11:43 AM.
Dec 03, 2018, 11:22 AM
It flies? I like it!
1000 posts in 14 years... Yipee! (but I digress)

Bird, I forgot the one thing that makes this so cool (materials engineering and common sense notwithstanding), while I am at work, or asleep, or spending time with my family, the Prusa is out there in the shop... building me airplanes... a few visits to pop the build plate into a box and 2-3 hours of gluing and stuffing at the end and I have another airplane I could not have carved out enough time to build these days. I miss and will return to balsa and foam and fiberglass when time allows but 3D printed has earned its place in my aeromodelling universe (which is pretty broad, if you read my tag line).

Retirement may bring a different perspective, but for now, and how busy life is at this stage, there is something that is undeniably magic and powerful in these models.
Last edited by Lomcevak; Dec 03, 2018 at 11:38 AM.
Dec 03, 2018, 12:48 PM
Retired CAD guy
birdofplay's Avatar
I agree re the older Balsa, Ply, IC engine power to weight ratios.
Been there , done that, not going back.

As Tom asked, Where is everybody ?

I was there ! :>}

But, Scroll thru the threads and count the actual Players" & aspiring Newbees,
Then look as the glut of rudimentary "2d but extruded" designs on Thingiverse from Posers.
Not enough folks to make a serious business out of.
Especially when you count all the 3dP machine offerings.
All the adverts seems to be Frantic to sell their machine to somebody.
Talk about a Niche Market !

The 3dP hobby has such a seriously steep learning curve for both design as well as the Printing.

At 72 I just don't want to waste too much time returning to previous power to weight ratios.

Heck, I am hoping that a 3D FOAM Printer will come along.

Wow would that be something !

I harbor no ill will towards any of the designs proffered to date.
I have purchased many of them, some time just to show support.
I KNOW how many hours it takes and the skill required to craft these designs.
Last edited by birdofplay; Dec 03, 2018 at 01:21 PM.
Dec 03, 2018, 09:08 PM
Registered User
I have to agree with birdofplay.
3D printing a complete plane is a big technical challenge, takes quite a long time to do and produces a plane that is structurally inferior to conventional builds. It comes down to a personal choice.
On the other hand it does make sense to use 3D printing to create parts where their weight, strength and repeat-ability is an advantage.
It is worth remembering that both foam and wood are cellular structures that allows extremely thin walls to provide significant strength in both tension and compression. The solid nature of 3D printing can never match all the physical properties of a cellular structure.
Last edited by Quorneng; Dec 04, 2018 at 05:28 PM.
Dec 03, 2018, 10:52 PM
Registered User
Dirty Dee's Avatar

Dead? Not for me!

I personally don't believe PLA is a good material. Having printed and flown the 3DLabPrint MiG-15, I dont see myself getting any more models from them until their designs change to something that is more resilient to warmer weather/sunlight, and can be more easily repaired without having to completely cut out sections and reprint.

Originally Posted by birdofplay
As Tom asked, Where is everybody ?
Head on over to the Airliner sub-forum

I've been busy designing an airframe with ABS and 2-perimeter walls, and have made great progress so far. Aiming to be complete for maiden in the spring, so hopefully I keep my steam and get it finished!

Some strong points of ABS that have found from the prints and tests:
-Lower mass density vs PLA means 2-perimeter shells arent a crippling weight increase
-Easily sanded for a smooth finish
-better working-time with gluing parts together with acetone
-If you break a part, it develops a fairly clean break, and can be re-glued back together.
Dec 03, 2018, 11:07 PM
Retired CAD guy
birdofplay's Avatar
I HAVE been lurking your progress.

very nicely done.
Dec 03, 2018, 11:19 PM
Registered User
Dirty Dee's Avatar
Thanks. I do agree that a 100% 3D printed design is not the most optimal, and is probably best done in a hybrid fashion.

My design will be implementing a bit of carbon, hardwood as well as fiberglassing in specific areas.
Dec 03, 2018, 11:44 PM
HD FPV on a 4m glider
finding a method to more easily produce carbon fiber wings is an interesting field of research currently. I am sure it will drive 3d printing rc planes to an obsolete state. regardless, I have never printed a plane, and find it very fascinating.
Dec 04, 2018, 01:04 AM
Registered User
From my point of view 3D printed planes are far from dead, I'm currently building 3 different designs, but I do wonder if there is a bit of a hiatus at the moment whilst development of new materials and construction methods are ongoing.

I wonder if people have been put off having built PLA planes that have self destructed on the first outing due to a mixture of weak designs and the brittle material. ABS is probably a more appropriate material but in my view is a little too flexible so would ideally require the design to use carbon fibre stiffeners and then of course, many people struggle to successfully print ABS so the number of people prepared to go the ABS route is somewhat reduced.

I too am coming to the conclusion that hybrid designs are the way to go in order to overcome the shortcomings of the currently available materials. I have just built the Kraga Maripi which uses a mixture of 3D printed mesh structures, reinforced with carbon fibre and covered with film. It's a clever design but I found the covering process was difficult due to the need to use low temperature covering films to protect the 3D printed parts (PETG in my case). Possibly the best solution is to print it in ABS which would be more tolerant of the higher temperature films.

I know there are people experimenting with 3D printed structures with balsa / foam coverings which show promise.

I really think that 3D printing planes offers so much potential but I don't think it will go mainstream until we can overcome the difficulties posed by lengthy and difficult 3D design processes, the lack of lightweight tough materials and the significant learning curves involved. When the average hobbyist can just pull a viable design off the shelf and print it reasonably easily and fly it without it self destructing, everyone will be doing it.

We are making progress but we're not there yet.
Dec 04, 2018, 03:08 AM
Registered User
Thoemse's Avatar
I am currently printing a Northen Pike in ABS. It seems it works in an enclosed delta printer without cracking or warping.
If it will be as good as I hope it to be we are looking at 10% less weight and heat resistance.

Totally not dead.
Dec 04, 2018, 04:38 AM
FDF - Front Door Flyer
derfred's Avatar
Not dead and itīs surely one of the construction methods for the future but some things must be re evaluated like designs specific for the PETG flexibility and larger nozzles for larger planes

Another thing I think would be interesting is the creation of a universal printer for model airplanes, Iīd say a cr-10X with the mod I did to use the prusa direct drive extruder on it. Or something else of large size, low price, good quality and direct drive with a quality hot end.

Designers would provide gcodes for this machine alone and modellers could print in an easy way.

The idea of supplying stl files sliced for 150X150mm machines is a headache for everyone and this is starting to show on larger planes, wouldnīt it be easier to just use a larger nozzle and a larger machine instead of splitting a wing in so many sections?
Dec 04, 2018, 07:07 AM
Registered User
greddin's Avatar

3D printing for Scale Sailplane fuselages

Definitely not dead!

For the past two years I have been exploring the use of 3D printed fuselages in scale sailplane designs. Used this way in a hybrid fashion with conventional built-up or foam-cored balsa flying surfaces, the apparent weight penalty of 3DP structures is for all intents and purposes negated. The compound curvature found in sailplane fuselages is ideal for 3D printing.

For the past few months I have been extensively test flying a scale Akaflieg Stuttgart FS-26 Moseppl motor glider which has been giving great service with its fuselage of 2 perimeters of PLA from a 0.4mm nozzle. Test pieces placed outdoors in the elements for several months have shown that fuselage structures of 2 or more perimeters of PLA are much more resistant to warping and deformation than the thin/single wall prints. Flights of 20-30 minutes in the Australian summer sun have caused no heat problems to the structure to date.

I have had two instances of damage (caused by operator error) which have been easily repaired. I have found that Loctite Professional CA along with HobbyKing accelerator gives a bond which is stronger than the base structure in most cases and is ideal for repairs where the damaged structure can be realigned. I use this combination for all my PLA/PLA joints. I have also used a glass cloth bandage inside on a damaged seam using medium CA with accelerator to good effect.

The Moseppl fuselage has gone through about 5 variations and I'm now happy with the process used for the fuselage, plus the cockpit tub, canopy rails and instrument panel. The clear canopy was also vac-formed on a 3DP plug made from PLA.

I think for longer skinnier fuselages in future I will use carbon rods to reinforce the thin tail booms, using a similar approach to that used by KRAGA with their KODO glider fuselage.

Last edited by greddin; Dec 04, 2018 at 09:01 PM.

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