By Chris Richter l Customer Support Manager/Application Engineer
During the months following my last article, “3D Printing and Drones,” there’s been many news events published regarding drones showing up in unexpected places. For example, a day after my first article was posted, a drone landed on the White House grounds. In March, ten drones were spotted mysteriously flying over Paris. There have been close calls between drones and commercial aircraft, reports of drug smugglers using drones along the US and Mexico border, and even reports of drones smuggling contraband over prison walls. On the other hand, you can find many examples of good uses for drones such as one Rhode Island teenager who hand-built his drone to help firefighters determine the cause of fires in buildings that are too unsafe to enter. He volunteers his time as needed to his local fire department.
I prefer to say what I have built is a “racing mini quadcopter” – not a drone in an attempt to differentiate myself from the negative publicity. With the half dozen flight tests I have been able to perform when weather permits, I estimate my quadcopter will travel in excess of 40 mph.
So far, I have been lucky enough to avoid any major crashes and the 3D printed frame has held up beyond my expectations considering the minor crashes I’ve had. As the photos show, the frame and FPV camera mount were printed in red and black ABSplus material on our Fortus250. The total print time for all of the components was under 5 hours and there was virtually no post processing because I was able to break away most of the support material by hand. There was one area of the frame I needed to cut away due to a last minute motor speed controller upgrade. I found the ABS material was quite easy and predictable to cut the extra ¼ inch clearance I needed with a small X-ACTO brand hand saw. I had no issues with tolerances being out of spec and found the default screw clearances generated by my CAD software (SolidWorks) allowed the metric 3mm screws to fit perfectly within the holes that were printed.
Regarding my future plans for the quadcopter, I will eventually transfer all of the components to a carbon fiber frame. As strong as the ABSplus material is, I fear it will not hold up as well in a hard crash and I could end up with motors and wires being pulled apart. Even though I will be using a carbon fiber frame, I will definitely be adding 3D printed components to the frame. The FPV camera mount will be carried over, and I will be designing and printing landing feet, antenna mounts, and a protective case to be mounted on the frame for the high definition camera.
Check out one of the test flights at our office: