Introduction: 3D Printed Mini RC Airplane
Building an RC aircraft using 3D printed parts is an awesome idea to build one, but plastic is heavy, so usually printed planes are bigger and require more powerful motors and controllers. Here I’ll show you how I made fully 3D printed mini spitfire that uses motors from one of those miniature quadcopters. To reduce the weight of the printed parts I printed them thin and flat on the bed and then bent them into shape after printing, just like I was building a foam airplane kit.
Step 1: Parts and Tools
These are the parts and tools I used for the build:
- Mini quadcopter controller board with receiver and transmitter
- 4 small brushed motors
- 1S battery
- Some PETG filament
- Some thin and lightweight wires
- 3D Printer
- Soldering iron
I used controller board from the eachine e010 mini drone, but its motors are pretty bad, so I ordered more powerful ones and a bigger battery from Hobbyking. For printing material I used PETG because of its higher melting point, so the plane wouldn’t just melt if I left it in the car on a sunny day.
Step 2: Design
Great source for DIY airplanes is the Flite Test store site. For every kit, there are free PDFs with full plans. Since they build and test their own designs, I just picked one that uses fewer parts to base my design on. I’ve chosen FLT-1123 spitfire and opened the plans in Fusion 360. In Fusion I used sheet metal tools with the thickness setting of 0.2mm which was the height of a single 3D printed layer. Sheet metal tool in Fusion allows me to make flat patterns of the modeled parts which are later going to be bent into shape. From this point modeling was pretty straight forward.
Step 3: 3D Printing
Printing flat parts required precisely leveled bed and in printing settings I increased the extrusion multiplier to 1.4 to provide a strong bond between printed lines. I used nozzle with 0.4mm diameter, with layer height of 0.2mm. Other pieces like motor mounts were printed with 5% infill and only 1 perimeter to reduce weight.
Step 4: Electronics
After printing all the parts, I secured the controller board to its 3D printed mount with two small screws and soldered longer wires for the battery. I also added an additional connector for the FPV camera. The motors will be soldered directly to the board after assembling the wings, for now they are just pressure fitted into the motor mount with extended wires on each motor.
Step 5: Assembly
To connect the printed pieces, I used soldering iron to weld them together (any kind of glue or tape would give additional weight). The first step of assembly is to bend the wing pieces and sandwich them together with the motor mount with the motors in between them and making sure the wires are exiting the wing at the middle. The wings are joined with small printed wing support. The main body of the plane is made of 5 parts which are all folded and joined as shown in the picture. At this point I cut the extra wires from the motors and soldered them to the board. Next, I joined the body of the plane and the wings and added the tail. Now the controller board mount is fitted inside the body and secured. I left the cockpit open for the FPV camera which is just held together with a small rubber band and that’s it. The build is finished and the whole thing with the battery weighted just under 50g with the wingspan of 315mm and body length of 240mm.
Step 6: End
Now all left to do is put the battery in below the controller board, plug it in and fly. After pairing it with the transmitter these little drones have a great feature where you can level your aircraft at an angle you want and make that position the standard position and with that control which motors turn faster so you can experiment with that. Also, I bent the wing flaps for additional tweaking.
Participated in the
Make It Fly Speed Challenge