The Sky’s the Limit: 3D Printing A Quadcopter

Published on: Saturday, 26 November 2016

Engineers are some of the biggest boundary pushers I know – myself included. And for me, one of the biggest, most fun callings is the call to fight gravity. I’ve developed quite an interest in quadcopters over the years, which are propeller-based flying systems using 4 arms/propellers (‘quads’ for short). In my work and play with quads, I’ve found them to be great for customization, allowing you to tailor them for your intended purpose, whether it’s shooting airborne video or delivering small packages. Because I know 3D printing to also be ideal for customization, I wanted to try marrying the two to see what happened. After mulling the idea over for a few days, I shared it with my colleague, Turner, in one of our brainstorming sessions.  His eyes lit up with the idea and very soon we were at the drawing board mapping out the possibilities.

Knowing what we wanted out of the design, the next step was to choose the right 3D printer. We wanted it to be big, preferably with different colored arms so it would look nice for a GoPro video shoot we had in mind. The CubePro fit the bill perfectly with its large build volume and tri-color printing capability. The heated chamber was also a huge plus since it guarantees quality, precision prints without extra effort.

In terms of design, most of it was easy to model in CAD. Turner’s main concern was simply to make sure all the bolt holes on the electronics lined up on the printed body. After designing the full quad body, we had to figure out how we wanted the 4 outer propeller blade guards to attach to the main body. We ultimately went with a square connection because it was easy to design and assemble. If you look at the final design, you’ll also note that the 4 outer prop guards are really only 2 parts that we printed twice, which is super handy for reprinting and replacing broken parts (probably my favorite thing about 3D printing).

For Turner and me, the ease of design and ability to print each iteration helped us improve the final outcome immensely. Once the body was printed and electronics assembled, we were ready to fly!

To build your own quadcopter, download the free kit!