Introduction: Paper Airplane Launcher (Make It Move)

About: Just a 15 year old kid who loves making things.

Yes, you can launch a plane with just your arms, but that's boring. So, using Tinkercad, I designed a plane launcher with a fully functioning trigger and release mechanism.

Well, have a sore arm and can't throw your airplane? Then this is for you. It took SO many tries and may look a bit overkill, but it's worth it.

This is one of the most complicated projects I've made far. To not make it a billion step instructable, I will be showing the basic idea of what a launcher needs, how I designed my own, the mechanism, and how to put it together. I will also be showing a test flight at the end of the instructable.

This overall is a very long instructable so for motivation purposes, on the last step I'll be congratulating you for making it all the way. ;)

If your designing your own launcher, make sure to have a hook for the plane, a way to release the plane, and a place for the rubber band to connect onto. Make sure it isn't in the path of the plane's trajectory or else the plane will just smash into the tip of the launcher and crumple. (I learned that the hard way.)


You will need. . .

  • Tinkercad* (If your designing your own launcher)
  • 3D printer or go to a local maker space* (If your printing your own)
  • 3D printed parts (The design is functional but could still have some upgrades. If you really want the prints, just message me on my profile or in the comments.)
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • A4 piece of printer paper
  • Regular tape
  • Regular rubber band (About 2 inches wide)
  • 4 small rubber bands (Loom bands) - link here


  • 14 - M3 x 25 bolts
  • 4 - M3 x 20 bolts
  • 2 - M3 x 6 bolts
  • 4 - M3 x 8 bolts
  • 1 - M3 x 12 bolt
  • 27 - M3 nuts
  • 7 - M3 washers
  • 4 - M3 lock washers

I bought all of them in this set - link here


Step 1: Design the Handle

I first used a rectangle and a bunch of holes to get the shape right. I measured my hand so it would fit comfortably.

I then used a bunch more rectangles and holes to make the trigger guard. I also hollowed out the inside of the handle using some more holes. That will come in handy later.

I then used some more holes to make the holes for the bolts. I made them 0.5 mm bigger than the bolts do the bolts could slide in nicely.

I then used a hole to cut the handle into two halves.

Step 2: Design the Handle Covers

I used a rectangle and some holes to make the covers. Make sure to have holes for the bolts to go into.

Step 3: Design the Handle Connector

To make the handle connector, I just used two rectangles and a bunch of holes for the bolts and handle to fit in.

Then, I split it in half using another hole.

The handle connector connects the handle to the barrel. It also holds the Airplane Release in place.

Step 4: Design the Barrel Grip

On the first part of the grip, I used a cylinder, a cone, and a bunch of holes to shape it right.

I then used another cylinder, a rectangle, and more holes to make the rest.

The barrel grip is used to lengthen the barrel (it has to be about 30cm long from the airplane hook to the end of the barrel) and somewhere to put your left hand.

Step 5: Design the Barrel Tip

For the barrel tip I used a rectangle, a cylinder, and a bunch of holes.

The barrel tip is the tip of the barrel. It is used to hold the rubber band connector in place.

Step 6: Design the Barrel Connectors

I used three rectangles and a bunch of holes to make a barrel connectors.

The barrel connector is used to connect all three parts of the barrel together. (The handle connector, barrel grip, barrel tip.) The only reason I designed to barrel in three parts was because it won't fit onto my 3D printer. :-|

Step 7: Design the Rubber Band Connector

First, I made the parts that actually hold the rubber band. I used two rectangles and a bunch of holes.

I then used another rectangle and some more holes to make the rest.

The rubber band connector fits onto the barrel tip. It is used to hold the rubber band that launches the plane.

Step 8: Design the Trigger

I used some rectangles, a cylinder, a semi circle, and some holes to make the trigger. The trigger will slide smoothly inside the handle and push the "airplane release lock". (More on the mechanism later.)

Step 9: Design the ARL

To design the airplane release lock, I used two rectangles, two cylinders, and two holes for the pivot point and the rubber band.

The ARL is used to hold the airplane release in place before you pull the trigger.

Step 10: Design the Rubber Band Holder & ARL Holder

I just took for cylinders and holes and grouped them together. (I will show you how they're used later.)

Step 11: Design the Airplane Release

I used a rectangle and a bunch of holes to make the airplane release.

This is used to hold the airplane in place before you pull the trigger.

Step 12: Design the Plane Hook

For the plane hook I just used three rectangles, two cylinders, one semi circle, and a bunch of holes.

The hook will attach to the plane and is used to pull back the rubber band while loading. Make sure it's light and won't weigh the plane down.

Step 13: The Mechanism

(The blue dots represent pivot points.)

1. Pull the trigger back and it pushes the ARL.

2. The ARL is stopping the Airplane Release from moving. Once the trigger pushes the ARL, it turns downward using the pivot point.

3. The Airplane Release is then able to move freely and turns on it's pivot point.

4. The paper plane is then released, and using rubber band power, is pulled forward and flies away.

Step 14: Ready to Print

Place them like so and they are ready to print. In my case I had to print the white and black separately. In total there are 16 pieces.

If your designing your own launcher, try to position them so they use the least amount of supports.

Step 15: Print Everything

It took a LONG time and many tries to get the final design right. (As you can see in the photo.)

I used my Ender 3 and white and black filament for the print. It turned out nicely but the two long barrel pieces wobbled a bit during the printing process so they're not the smoothest. Still some redesigning to do but overall, I'm quite happy with it.

Step 16: Fold the Plane

In order to launch a plane, you need a plane. Finding the right design was probably one of the hardest parts of this project. After many, many, many tries, I finally found the right one.

A: Get a regular A4 piece of paper. (Most printer paper.)

B: Fold the paper in half and then unfold it again.

C: Fold the top edge to the left edge and unfold it.

D: Fold the top edge to the right edge and unfold it. Now you have a cross.

E: Fold the right edge to the line you just made.

F: Fold the Left edge to the other line of the cross.

G: Fold the top down so the lines from the cross match up.

H: Fold along the lines so the plane has a point.

I: Fold the little tap up over the folds you just made.

J: Fold it in half so the folds are on the outside.

K: Fold the wings to a point

L: Make sure the edge of the wings line up with the back point of the plane.

M: It should look like the picture.

N: Lastly, pinch little taps on the back of each wing. This will make it fly upward at and angle so it won't nose-dive into the ground.

Step 17: Put the Hook on the Plane

In this step you will need. . .

A - The plane

B - Tape

C - The hook

Slide the hook onto the plane with the two prongs going underneath the tab.

Use some tape and tape the tab to the body of the plane. This helps the plane not fall apart while loading.

Step 18: Put the Handle Covers on the Handle

In this step you will need. . .

A - The two handle halves

B - A Phillips head screwdriver

C - Four M3 nuts

D - Four M3 x 8 bolts

E - The handle covers

Use the M3 x 8 bolts and secure the handle cover onto the handle. The nuts should be on the inside of the handle.

Step 19: Connect the ARL & Trigger to the Handle

In this step you will need. . .

A - Three M3 nuts

B - The ARL

C - Two Loom bands

D - A Phillips head screwdriver

E - The band holders

F - Two M3 x 25 bolts

G - One M3 x 12 bolt

H - The Trigger

I - The Handle halves

First, push a rubber band through the hole of the ARL. Grab the other rubber band and thread it through the first rubber band.

Thread a M3 x 25 bolt through the back of the handle. Place a rubber band holder on the bolt followed by the ARL and another rubber band holder.

Secure both handle halves together with the M3 x 25 bolt on the bottom of the handle and the M3 x 12 bolt of the trigger gaurd.

Step 20: Connect the Handle & Airplane Release to the Handle Connector

In this step you will need. . .

A - A Phillips head screwdriver

B - Five M3 nuts

C - One M3 Washer

D - One M3 x 20 bolt

E - Four M3 x 25 bolts

F - The handle connector halves

G - The handle

H - Two Loom bands

I - The ARL holders

J - The airplane release

Use one of the rubber bands and push it through to bottom hole of the airplane release. Thread the other one through the rubber band.

Use a M3 x 25 bolt and a washer and put in through the back hole of the handle connector. Don't fasten it yet.

Place the rest of the bolts like so on the handle connector. M3 x 25 bolts on the left holes, an M3 x 20 bolt on the 2nd to right, and leave one M3 x 25 bolt out.

Place the handle on the handle connector and thread the bolts through the holes. Place an ARL holder on the second to left bolt followed by the ARL and another ARL holder. Place the airplane release bands on the M3 x 20 bolt.

Screw on the other half.

Now, use the last M3 x 25 bolt and secure the airplane release.

Step 21: Connect the Grip to the Barrel

In this step you will need. . .

A - The grip

B - Two M3 x 25 bolts

C - Three M3 x 20 bolts

D - Five nuts

E - The Handle

F - The barrel connector with three holes

G - The barrel connector with two holes

H - A Phillips head screwdriver

First, connect the two barrel connectors onto the handle using two M3 x 20 bolts.

Fasten the grip onto the handle with the M3 x 20 bolt on top and the M3 x 25 on bottom.

Use the last M3 x 25 bolt and thread it through to top of the grip. Secure it with a nut.

Step 22: Connect the Rubber Band Connector to the Barrel Tip

In this step you will need. . .

A - Scissors

B - Four lock washers

C - Six washers

D - A Phillips head screwdriver

E - Two M3 x 25 bolts

F - The barrel tip

G - Six M3 nuts

H - A regular 2'' wide rubber band

I - Two M3 x 16 bolts

J - The rubber band connector

Use the washers and the M3 x 25 bolts and fasten the rubber band connector the the barrel tip.

Now, using a M3 x 16 bolt, two washers, two lock washers, and a nut, secure them in this order. Washer, lock washer, lock washer, washer, nut. Make two of them.

Connect them to the barrel tip using two nuts.

Cut the rubber band in half and tie both ends to the bolts.

Step 23: Finish Up the Barrel

In this step you will need. . .

A - The launcher so far

B - The barrel tip

C - The four holed barrel connector

D - Four M3 x 25 bolts

E - Four M3 nuts

F - A Phillips head screwdriver

Slide the last barrel connector into the grip and use two of the M3 x 25 bolts to secure it.

Now, slide the Barrel tip on and secure it with the rest of the screws. It should look like the picture.

Step 24: WATCH IT FLY!


Now, does it work?

Check it out for yourself in the video above.

Overall the launcher is actually really powerful and with the right airplane, can fly about 30 to 40 feet. It was a fun project and I plan to make it better and better.

Tinkercad Student Design Contest

Participated in the
Tinkercad Student Design Contest