Most of us, as seems to be innately human, have wished to know what it would be like to fly–really fly–like a bird, having the power to soar over the geography of our beautiful planet. With this desire often comes a fascination with planes and beyond. When combined with design talent and engineering prowess, a handful of inventors allow us to glimpse impressive aerial innovation and some truly incredible man-made sights overhead.
Now, 3D printing is helping one very persistent flying enthusiast take to the skies with his planes. After meticulous time in designing, refining, testing, and going back to the drawing board as all good inventors are often forced to do, German designer Wersey was finally able to put one of the largest known 3D printed model aircraft into the sky. Not only is it stable enough to fly high overhead, it’s strong enough to perform aerobatics, entertaining an enthusiastic crowd further.
Fabricated with PLA, the 3D printed sailplane has a takeoff weight of 2.25 kg, and no weekend project, it took 155 hours of 3D printing. The designer, Wersey, is no stranger to complex DIY projects with a wide variety of models including 3D printed replicas of everything from cannons to motorboats, and far more.
Even his first iterations–which as Wersey noted crashed and burned (just a bit) at the end–still took off in a fairly impressive manner. The Red Duck, meant to be a bit more ambitious, was scaled down in actual design and 3D printing.
“My intention was to design a plane with up to a three-meter wingspan without strengthening by carbon tubes–that means one hundred percent [3D] printed,” says Wersey. “But I had to stop at 1.35 meters because the wing already had reached a weight of almost 1.1 kg.”
“My small motor which I used already on my sail plane wouldn’t last for much more weight. Additionally, I thought a flying wing would make less problems to get the CG forwards, because of the short tail. But again I got the same trouble. The big mass of the wing pushed the CG backwards, so I was forced to add a spacer on front. This makes the plane looks a bit like a duck.”
After that, Wersey’s duck transformed into the ‘Red Swan.’
“The ugly duckling became a swan,” said Wersey. “So the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen came true. Yes I know, it didn’t become the beauty of a swan, but it has this wonderful flight characteristic. It can glide like a sailplane. The motor was often not in use…”
This 3D printed plane also required further refinements, especially as an improvement over the other, most of which Wersey was prepared for. Figuring out challenges in expansion and weight were a challenge of course, considering that we are talking about planes here. Expanding the wing meant expanding the nose. Back to design, and back to the 3D printer, Wersey was looking at 1.8 kg of PLA. For 3D printing the wing, he spent 120 hours, and on the fuselage, 35 hours. Other specs are as follows:
- Wing span: 1950 mm
- Wing chord: 336 mm
- Aerodynamic center: 80.2 mm
- Aerodynamic center 8% stability: 61.4 mm
- Wing profile: Clark YS
- Wing overall weight: 1520 g
- Wing area: 65,52 dm²
- Fuselage overall weight 730 g
- Wing loading: 34,3 g/dm²
- Longitudinal stability (Thies) STFs: 65,0
- Motor: Robbe Roxxy BL Outrunner 2834-08
- Propeller: Aeronaut CAM 10 x 6”
- Static thrust: 1100 g (3S Lipo)
The result with the Swan was an impressive display of aerobatics–and a nice soft landing. With the power of 3D printing, even a plane that does ‘crash and burn’ can be redesigned and re-printed–and customized further at the hobbyist’s whim. It’s self-sustainability for the DIY crowd, and is certainly lending the opportunity for a great deal more innovation in the world of the model plane enthusiast.
What’s even more exciting is that Cults3D has made Wersey’s files available for download. If 3D printed planes aren’t in your repertoire and you are looking for a different sort of project, you’ll find numerous creative projects to keep you busy just on Wersey’s page alone.
Is this a design that interests you? Have you 3D printed anything similar? Discuss in the 3D Printed Model Sail Planes forum over at 3DPB.com.