In the past couple years there has been quite a bit of activity into r&d of tiny insect/drone/ornithopter type vehicles. Two intriguing designs I've been following are Harvard's RoboBee
and Cornell's Ornithopter
. While some designs, like Harvard's, are out of reach of the average DIYer (check out their white paper, it's awesome) the Cornell 3D printed ornithopter is attainable and I took it as a challenge to make my own. Cornell's use of 3D printing techniques makes it easy to try out and make modifications. Unfortunately they don't give out their files and they built theirs on a 3D printer that cost 100k. My work has been to model my own design off of their work, but make it using commonly available 3D printers. You can see the results below.
Quickly I would like to discuss how amazing desktop 3D printers are. So far I have been able to make two versions: the first is blue and printed by my schools 3D printer (6.07 grams), the second is clear plastic and made by a Makerbot Replicator 2 (4.729 grams). For a reference point Cornell's weighed 3.89 grams. Between my first and second designs the weight of the wings has gone from 4 grams to 2.6 grams because the wing thickness went from 0.02 inches to 0.008 inches (200 microns). After receiving comments about more flexible wings, I have made a new version with a total wing weight of 1.968 grams making my ornithopter a total of 4.10 grams (the total weight of 4.729 grams minus the difference in the wings (2.6 - 1.968) grams) making it only 0.21 grams off of Cornell's weight!
I am not done with this project yet and would really love to get a design that flies, so please give me your comments and ideas!