There is something about quadcopters and other man-made aerial vehicles that are just downright sexy. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that humans have been enamored with flying vehicles since even before the Wright brothers invented and built the world’s first successful airplane, or if perhaps there is something extremely challenging and adrenaline filling to the the act of soaring through the skies. Fact is, it doesn’t matter, but there is no arguing the point that un-manned aerial vehicles have become all the rage as of late.
For those who keep up-to-date on the desktop 3D printing space, you are probably familiar with a man named Daniel Norée, and his OpenRC Project. OpenRC is a community dedicated to 3D printing radio controlled vehicles. This community shares their design files, their ideas and tips on creating radio controlled cars, trucks, and whatever else, all from the ground up, with the help of 3D printers.
One project, which up until recently very few even knew that Norée had been working on, is his OpenRC Quadcopter; a project that was aimed at creating a 3D printed radio controlled unmanned aerial vehicle.
“I started by looking at what electronics to get but man it’s a jungle, and rather complicated for a beginner,” Norée tells 3DPrint.com. “I was about to give up when a friend offered to loan me a complete quad (DJI 450 Flame Wheel) so I could use the electronics from that and put it in my own project. In terms of design, I wanted to do something a bit different than what´s already out there and I also wanted to enclose the electronics in the design itself. As taulman3D is a great supporter my initial idea was to use taulman’s ‘Tritan’ to create a thin walled, low infill design that would be strong but still rigid enough for a quad.”
Norée started out by modeling the arms of his vehicle, and he admits that this was quite a challenge in and of itself. He wanted to fit the ESCs (Electronic Speed Controls) into the arms, but at the same time didn’t want to make them too large. He also insisted on creating a design that would move beyond the typical rectangular shapes that are common with other 3D printed RC vehicles. Finally he resorted to splitting the arms into two individual parts to accomplish exactly what he wanted to do. This only created another challenge for Norée, though.
“The next challenge was, ‘how [could I] merge two parts into one unit?'” Norée explains. “At first I was trying to fit screws and nuts in the design but there was no way to do that in a good way. So what I did was create ‘tunnels’ in the arms and use a Zip tie to merge the two parts. To help keep these two parts in place I used small pieces of regular 1.75mm 3D Printing filament.”
As for the body of the OpenRC Quad, Norée started out with a quite elaborate plan, one which we still may see in the future. He wanted to create a central unit which would be able to keep the arms in place and work as a “base unit.” The top and bottom parts would be interchangeable with other designs, depending on exactly what the “pilot” of the quadcopter wanted. He planned on printing the top portion as a shell in order to keep its weight down, while the bottom portion would be the housing for the battery compartment and electronics.
“The idea was to create a sort of cassette system for the battery so a number of different batteries could be used with the same bottom part,” Norée tells us. “Meaning you could design your own cassette and fit the battery in it and then slide that cassette in and out of the bottom part also making it very easy to switch batteries when needed. I never got to designing the cassette system so I just made a simple compartment to fit the battery.”
You will notice that the design files for the OpenRC Quad are earmarked as “Beta,” and this is because the project has not yet officially been completed. Norée ended up abandoning it, at least temporarily, as other projects popped up that he had a great interest in working on. He plans to experiment with flying other quadcopters, to get a better understanding of exactly how they work, before resuming this project in the future.
“Even though I have abandoned the Quad project for now, I had put too much time in it to not realease the files for everyone else to play with,” says Norée. “Maybe someone else can benefit from it, if only getting some inspiration or even using parts of the design itself.”
The design files have been made available on YouMagine, Thingiverse, and grabcad for anyone to download, print, and modify free of charge. It should be interesting to see if anyone can get this work of art to successfully fly.
What do you think about this Quadcopter design by Daniel Norée? Discuss in the OpenRC Quadcopter forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out some more photos below.