When I was a little boy, growing up in South Jersey, the one toy that I really wanted the most was a remote controlled airplane. I grew up with a father who was a pilot, and frequently had the chance to go up in the plane with him. He would teach me how to fly, from the co-pilot’s seat, and I really found myself enjoying the freedom that nature provided only to birds, and insects.
I always had several RC cars as a child, but there was something about controlling an airplane, flying in the skies above, using a remote control on the ground. Even today, whenever I have the chance to be around or take part in controlling RC airplanes, I still get that warm fuzzy feeling that I remember as a child.
There were ultimately two factors preventing my parents from buying me an RC airplane as a youngster: 1) The price tag, and 2) how easily the plane could be destroyed. A single mistake on the part of the pilot, could mean the total destruction of that very expensive toy. Fortunately, technology has advanced, and those same RC airplanes that would have cost a fortune back in the 80’s, now can be had for a much lower price tag. In fact, you can even make your own!
Thanks to 3D Printing, and the ability to design and fabricate objects of your liking, as long as they are made of particular plastics, my son will be able to one day create his very own, custom RC airplane. Thanks to a man named Kiril Lange, anyone with access to a 3D printer can print out their own, already modeled airplane, and best of all, the design files are totally free.
“I created this fully 3D printed airplane just to make something cool. With a 36 inch wingspan, 4 servos, and a 210w motor this is a fully functional flying airplane,” wrote Lange, a self-proclaimed ‘poor college student’.
Of course, the airplane can not be flown directly off of the printer, as there will be further assembly required and a good deal of skill needed. Other than the 3D printed parts, there will be about four dozen other parts needed as well, including:
- 4 – 25mm x 3mm or 1 inch #4-40 machine screws + respective bolts
- 4 – 40mm x 6mm or 1.5 inch x 1/4 inch bolts
- 8 – 6mm or 1/4 inch washers
- 4 – 10mm x 4mm or 1/2 inch x #6 machine screws + respective bolts
- 4 – 1/8 inch x 3/8 inch x 2 foot basswood or (untested) 1/8 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 foot basswood
- 1 – TURNIGY Plush 30amp Speed Controller
- 1 – D2830-11 1000kv Brushless Motor
- 1 – ZIPPY Compact 2200mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack
- 4 – Turnigy TG9e 9g / 1.5kg / 0.10sec Eco Micro Servo
- A battery charger and 4 channel transmitter/reciever
- Piano wire or paperclips
- Rubber bands
- Glue (Lange recommends using ABS + acetone)
Lange recommends printing the wings in ABS and filling the imperfections, which could alter the planes flight ability, with an ABS/acetone mix. He also suggests using rafts when printing all of the pieces, as this will better ensure that they print with the correct surface texture and shape. More detailed instructions can be found via Lange’s thingiverse listing.
Once everything is printed out, construction of the model consists of assembling the body of the plane, including trimming a portion of the basswood. The back of the body needs to be bolted to the front using #6 or 4mm bolts, following by gluing the body tail lattice into the slot on the back of the body with the formulated ABS/acetone mix. Once this is complete, the servos must be inserted into their respective brackets on the body of the plane. Lange recommends inserting the servos from the inside, starting from the back first.
Once complete, the tail flaps will need to be sanded down so that they can rotate easily within their holes. Many more steps follow, including the attachment of the wing servos, assembly of the landing gear, and the addition of the electronics. Be sure to see all of the instructions here.
Once complete, the RC airplane is ready for flight. Lange does warn that it isn’t a “beginner plane”, so it might take a bit getting used to as far as piloting goes, but if constructed correctly it should fly quite nicely.
What do you think? Have you attempted to recreate Lange’s plane? Discuss in the 3D printed RC airplane forum thread on 3DPB.com.