Intro: 3D Printed Quadcopter
Looking for something cool, fun, and creative to do?! If you have a few bucks, access to a 3D printer, CAD software, and a little patience; with this tutorial you can create your very own Quadcopter!
Still not convinced that this is the coolest project ever? Click here to get a brief description of what a quadcopter is and how they work!
Step 1: Ask: Constraints
We identified that we wanted to design a multi-copter. Regardless of whether we decided on a quad, hexa, or octa copter. We knew there were several similarities with the constraints between all three designs.
- Weight of the body has to be evenly distributed.
- Size Restrictions (If you copter weighs between .55lbs-55lbs you have to register your aircraft online, over 55lbs there is a paper registration form. We designed our aircraft to weigh below the size restriction. For more details on registration click here.)
- Wing Span (this depends on the length of the wires attached to your motor.)
Step 2: Imagine: Quad, Hexa, or Octa?
We looked at the pros and cons of all the various multi-copters. We posted the list above in the pictures. After analyzing the pros and cons of all three options we decided that our best choice would be to start with designing a quad-copter.
Step 3: Plan: Quadcopter
Before we could start sketching designs we needed to take inventory of the material we had access to and what material is necessary to construct a successful quad-copter.
- Hubsan Board (Can be purchased Here) *
- 4 Gyroscopic Motors (Can be purchased Here) *
- 4 Propellers (Can be purchased Here) *
- 1 Rechargeable Battery Pack (Can be purchased Here) *
- 1 Controller (Can be purchased Here) *
- 1 Soldering Iron
- Soldering Wire
- Safety Glasses
- Access to CAD software (We used Solidworks)
- Access to 3D Printer (We used a Taz 5 Mini)
- 3D printing Software (We used Cura)
- ABS Filament
* There are plenty of other websites and hobby shops that sell these products, feel free to search around and find the options that better suit your financial means!
Step 4: Create: Prototyping
We created some fairly generalized sketches of quad-copters. We just wanted a general design that could be easily edited and quickly printed.
After selecting our design we made a few prototypes out of foam board. We understood that this material would be too light to function properly as a quad-copter; however, it provided us the opportunity to test our motors to ensure they all worked as well as ensure we soldered them in the correct places.
Step 5: Create: Prototyping (Motors)
Above is a diagram of how your motors/blades should be turning for you quadcopter to fly correctly. It is IMPORTANTto notice that propellers on the same side (Left-side/Right-side) need to rotate in the opposite direction. There are also two different types of propellers -- Pusher propeller and Normal propeller. The front left and back right should be rotating clockwise and be pusher propellers, while your front right and back left should be rotating counter clockwise and be normal propellers.
Make sure your quadcopter is level before testing; the motors are gyroscopic and compensate for each other. You should be able to plug your (Charged) battery into your board, turn on your controller, and connect your controller to your quadcopter to test motors.
After successfully soldering our motors on to the board we went to Solidworks to design out copter.
REMINDERS -- YOUR SKETCH NEEDS TO BE FULLY DEFINED AND HAVE SOME RELATION TO THE ORIGIN. YOU PART FILE NEEDS TO BE SAVED AS A .STL FILE FOR THE 3D PRINTER
We have provided copies of our Solidworks files in a zip file!
Step 6: Test and Evaluate : Prototype 1
We printed our first prototype as pictured above. We ran into a few issues --
- Too much excess material
- Did not take into consideration tolerances (Motors did not fit into slot/Battery pack slot was too large)
- No channel to feed motor wires through
Step 7: Improve: Redesign Take 1
We took these concerns and we revamped our design. We made our motor slots larger, reduced the battery pack/board slot, and developed a channel for our motors wires as well as our battery pack/board wires. However we still ran into a few issues --
- Motor slots were still too small
- Motor wire channel were not design wide enough to be effectively 3D printed
- Still too much excess material
Step 8: Improve: Redesign Take 2
We decided that our motor slots needed "relief cuts", this would allow for some flexibility, but still allow our motors to be held snuggling in place. We also cut the height of our design in half to reduce the amount of material used to print our copter. Lastly we widen the channels for our motor wires. In the end, third time was the charm. Our Quadcopter design managed to hold our battery pack and board (with a little help from a rubber band), our motors fit well, our wires followed the channels, and our quad-copter flew well.
Step 9: Final Product in Action
Overall this was a fun project that allowed my partner and I to get a basics in quadcopters and get more practice in using Solidworks and 3D printing. Our biggest issues arose in the motors and ensuring they were rotating in the correct direction. Once you have the motors functioning correctly the world is your and you can be as creative as you want with the design of your quadcopter!
Here is a link to a video of our Quad-copter in Flight.