Introduction: 3D Printed Quadcopter

Our group decided on 3D printing a quadcopter frame and using a kit for the motors and circuit. Here is an instructable that tells you our thought process but also the step by step instructions we would recommend for other people wanting to complete this project.

Step 1: Understanding the Problem

Once we decided we were going to participate in the 3D printed quadcopter project we organized a list of aspects to consider:

-We would have to 3D model our frame in order to 3D print it

-We need to make sure the frame isn't too heavy for the motors

-We will have to learn how to fly the quadcopter with the specified remotes

-We are getting a kit and will have constraints from that

-We should aim for a creative solution

Our group used this list as a way to keep our solutions organized and practical.

Step 2: Recognize the Constraints

Since we were given a kit that included the motors, circuit, and LEDs we knew we would have to design our frame around what we had. The biggest issue was the length of the wires from the motors because you could not place the motors that far from each other but you also had to be mindful they didn't touch. We also knew we would have to design the frame around the battery size and the circuit size.

Step 3: Brainstorm & Research

We began our research on the internet looking up the modern advancements in quadcopter technology. Many people have made the connection that the lighter the frame is the better the quadcopter will fly. Therefore, many people will go for a minimalist approach in order to have the lowest weight. I think this has caused a lot of people to not try and make more sleek designs that incorporate more practical use into the devices. I saw many designs of quadcopters but only in the direction of using less material which makes sense. We found that in order for a quadcopter with lower powered motors the device should weigh on a whole, less than 300 grams. We would have to keep this in mind as we moved forward with designs.

Step 4: Create Possible Solutions

We thought of maybe creating a frame and attaching a hook to the bottom to bring some more functionality to the device. We also thought of printing a guard to fit around the quadcopter to protect the motors. We allowed for the possibility of a simple X-shaped frame if that was the best solution but we wanted to keep brainstorming other possible solutions. We also thought about a frame that had raised arms and legs to be off the ground.

Step 5: Select a Solution

We narrowed our choices down to two possible solutions:

X-shaped frame- simple, lightweight, lacks originality, no special functions

Lifted-arm frame- slightly more complex, still lightweight, helps protect motors from beginning flat on surfaces, creative

We choose the lifted-arm frame to model and 3D print for our quadcopter because we like the challenge of doing the project differently from the other groups.

Step 6: Began Prototyping

To make our prototype, we had many different options as to what it would be made out of. We could have chosen anything from metal, to wood, to plastic, to cardboard.

We decided to use a 3-d printer to create the frame and body of our quad-copter. in order to do this, we first needed to create our model using Inventor. Once this was completed, we then needed to convert our file to the proper type in order for the printer to read it.

Step 7: Solder the Circuit

The kit came with a circuit board. Conveniently for us, the circuit was actually labeled as to what leads go to what. The circuit contained 4 +/- leads for each of the propellers, as well as 2 +/- leads for LED lights.

We decided to solder the propellers and lights onto the circuit before the prototype was completed, as it would keep everything together and we would have to worry about damaging the frame during the soldering process.

Step 8: Troubleshooting With 3D Printing

Initially, we had quite a few problems with 3-D printing the frame. Right off the bat, we noticed that the file was being read in Millimeters, instead of the desired Inches. To solve this issue, we had to scale the model up in the printing program, essentially "converting" the drawing back to its original size.

In addition, we discovered that the holes for the propellers were about twice as big as they needed to be. We had to go into the drawing in Inventor to fix this issue.

One of the failed prints was due to setting the 3-D printer up wrong, so that the plastic filament wasn't getting hot enough to properly print. This was fixed in the print set-up.

Step 9: Test Prototype

Once our soldering was completed, we decided to test the propellers to make sure everything was working correctly. Once we decided that the solders were good to go, we strapped everything to the frame for testing.

We soon discovered that certain engines needed certain propellers, otherwise the thrust was in the wrong direction.

Once this was fixed, we then needed to trim our quad-copter to fly straight. Much harder than it sounds, but after a lot of patience and determination, we had our copter!

Step 10: Reflect on the Process

In reflection, this project gave us a lot of hands on experience in a few different areas. One of these being in 3-D printing. Personally, we hadn't had much experience in 3-D printing things from scratch. This project allowed us to create a file from scratch, and move it all the way to a physical prototype.

Another area of experience was in circuitry and soldering. Neither of us have had a lot of experience with soldering, and it was a rewarding learning experience to be able to mess up and have to re-solder multiple leads.

All in all, this project allowed us to get our hands dirty doing something that is both fun and educational. Now we can say that we have built a Quad-copter from scratch!