Fully 3D printed modular RC Sailplane.

by Walt, published

Fully 3D printed modular RC Sailplane. by Walt Mar 2, 2013


This is a 48 inch wingspan sailplane of my own design. All parts have been 3D printed using PLA. The wing has been test flown, but the entire assembled plane has not yet been tested. The wing uses the Eppler 214 airfoil.

**** Two files updated 18 May 2013 ****
The two files are the Vert_stab and Fuselage_tail files. A very minor change was made to the vertical stabilizer by removing some material at the bottom of the control linkage channel. I've added a feature in the fuselage tail part to allow trapping the sheath end of the flexible control cables using two set-screws. This prevents having to cement the sheath in place to prevent movement.

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May i ask how much layers you used to make the top and bottom shells? thanks!

Hi Walt, can you please help me?

I'm facing some problem with "fuselage tail" part. It seems to have a mesh problem!

I downloaded netfabb software and tried to repair it. But it didn't work. Any suggestion?


I don't quite understand what you are saying, but I can only assure you that the wing panels are very robust and fully covered when printed properly as designed. The photos of the plane that I've included were printed from the very files that you are able to download. Check out the Made section as others have posted their results.

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All STL files have now been uploaded. I plan on creating a PDF of assembly details that should help, as there are a few areas that need to be assembled in a certain order. Good Luck!

The wing requires two 1/8" round carbon fiber rods, and one 0.196" square carbon fiber rod for each half. The rod insertion holes will have to be cleaned out with a drill in some cases. To ease sliding the wing panels onto the rods use dry bar soap rubbed onto the rods first. I used a mitre box and hobby saw to cut the brim from the end of the wing panels. The entire assembled wing weighs 12.7 ounces.

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igorabduch on Mar 26, 2014 said:

Hi Walt, can you please help me?

I'm facing some problem with "fuselage tail" part. It seems to have a mesh problem!

I downloaded netfabb software and tried to repair it. But it didn't work. Any suggestion?


mauryr on Jan 16, 2014 said:

Hey Walt,
I am having issues with printing the perimeter, the printer seems to want to just print the inner structure and the perimeter is sorta disconnected. Any suggestions on how to fix this issue please?
Thanks :)

Walt on Jan 17, 2014 said:

You probably need to increase the width of your extrusion until the perimeters bond together. Increase the width only enough to get a strong structure. Too much just adds weight. Good luck!

iodadi on Jan 16, 2014 said:

Thanks we start construction. Any information about motor, servos, etc...?

Walt on Jan 17, 2014 said:

Scroll down to my earlier posts for info on the motor and such. There's a lot of info throughout the various posts.

tru168 on Jan 11, 2014 said:

Nice design. Anyone know that is the weight of empty frame please? rigid enough to fly it ?

Walt on Jan 17, 2014 said:

It is rather heavy, but that just means it will fly faster. The L/D ratio is what determines the glide slope, and the wing provides low drag.

ildar on Nov 22, 2013 said:

Ok, I have Made one. Nice and easy to assemble. Thanks Walt.

ildar on Nov 5, 2013 said:

Could you please kindly upload Editable parts such as Parasolid, Step or iges? once i have it i will start printing one and will upload pictures and details here. I have a 360MC and love to print this RC. I do love to try to fly it :) any way, nice and clean job.

Walt on Nov 5, 2013 said:

I'd rather not upload all the required files if you only needed to modify certain ones. Reply with a short list, and I'll add those as a start. The one advantage of the short wing sections is the ease of repair. It's also easier to clear the holes for the CF rods.

ebourlet on Oct 1, 2013 said:

Anyone have this fling yet?

trancetechkid on Sep 19, 2013 said:

Hey there. I'd like to take a crack at printing and building this, and I noticed there weren't instructions up yet. I know you said some parts do need to be assembled in a certain order. I'd just like to know if you plan on releasing those instructions and maybe a parts list of motor and other components you'd recommend. Any information is appreciated. Thanks in advance!

LWJCarroll on Sep 6, 2013 said:

Walt which 3D design software did you use..??...I have checked the comments here and cant find a reference to it...???...Rgds...Laurie

Walt on Sep 6, 2013 said:

I use TurboCAD Mac Pro. They also make versions for the PC if needed. Good luck with the build!

LWJCarroll on Sep 6, 2013 said:

Walt that is amazing!!...Just d/l the files and had a loom at a wing panel....brilliant!!... the way you have structured the internal wing whuich suits 3D printing is brilliant..!!.... Once I have my delta printer going this will be done...Thanks and Regards...Laurie

isee on Jun 26, 2013 said:

Why don't you move your elevators into the prop-wash? That should give you more manoeuvrability at stall speeds I would have thought. Loving the idea of a printable R/C plane. can't wait to see it fly so I can make one myself. Well done!

Walt on Jun 26, 2013 said:

The idea is to provide a clean undisturbed airflow over the surfaces for more efficient gliding. The motor is only used to gain altitude after which you then search for thermals and updrafts to stay aloft. This design is supposed to function as a sailplane rather than an aerobatics plane in which case your idea is probably better. You can shorten the wing by leaving sections out, and redesign the tail section as you suggest, and then give it a go. Design flexibility is key, and with a 3D printer you can change at will, so enjoy!

lukasbieri on May 31, 2013 said:

How much infill did you use? 20%? If you could really make a PDF of how to build it, I would print me one myself. I have some serov and I think that these would work great together :)

Walt on Jun 2, 2013 said:

The layer thickness was set to 0.25mm for all prints.

Wing panels 1 perimeter 0. infill
Wing tips 1 perimeter 0.05 infill
Fuselage main 3 perimeters 0.1 infill
Tail boom 2 perimeters 0.2 infill
Vert & Horiz stab. 2 perimeters 0.05 infill

Good luck, and post some photos to the "I made one!" section when possible.

schoschi12 on May 12, 2013 said:

I tried to design a rc plane on my own for 3D-Print, but my calculations revealed that it would have a weight ways to high. How heavy is yours witout the rc components?

Walt on May 12, 2013 said:

The entire airframe minus the motor, prop, battery, and all RC equipment weighs 22.9 oz. It is a bit heavy although there is room for weight reduction in the fuselage and a slight bit in the wing.

Mando5 on May 5, 2013 said:

awesome job...

g00bd0g on May 4, 2013 said:

You have got to fly this thing. Hey, if it doesn't work out so well you can always print another ;p

jcaywood on Apr 21, 2013 said:

Hey Walt, has this thing flown yet? I know you said you were waiting for better weather about a month ago. Also with the wing panels did you print those with support or without? I can't tell if the joining pegs are a flush cut off and would need support or if they're tapered to print without support. Thanks!

Walt on Apr 21, 2013 said:

I've been so busy with other work that I haven't attempted to fly the plane yet. I've been wanting to get some practice flying before I attempted the printed plane. The wing panels are printed with brim, no infill, and no support.

robinmdh on Mar 19, 2013 said:

first off @KreAture a static but parametric design tool like solidworks(or openscad for that matter) can easily adjust a thickness to match your extrusion nozzle or a multiple there off. (and the shell function really works fairly different then just printing x perimeters with no infill)

and it makes sense to design what you want, not what the printer will make of it. itf you printed this on a SLS printer it would still be the same and lighter than your suggestion...

that said it does seems a bit heavy(to much structural parts), I've printed some test wing sections of only .8mm thick outer skin and partially closed up top/bottom(but hollow for he rest). the strength seems plenty for an rc aircraft...

though my wing cross section is a bit thicker providing more strength trough the outer walls being farther apart.

I do intend to add some more partially closed off layers to share the load when connected to the plane body but the less construction makes a slightly flexible but surprisingly strong part.

the strength and simplicity worked so well that I was thinking of extending the height of my printer so it could print relatively large wing sections in one go...

there are extra tall ultimakers already so I'd only need the wooden parts and a new z axis

KreAture on Mar 29, 2013 said:

My suggestions mostly came from seeing the filled center section.
The outer sections of the wing seems lighter.
Still though. A 0.35mm nozzle printer could print it lighter than a 0.6mm nozzle printer.
I've scratchbuilt a lot of planes and wonder if maby there's a different way to do the wing. What if the wing-sections were printed flat on the table and folded over to create the profile? The skin would be printed flat on the table and could be very thin. Leading edges are not supposed to be too sharp anyways, as that creates a wing that stalls sharply, folding over may work with some heat.

VGer on Mar 17, 2013 said:

Hi Walt, have you done a video of this model flying?
Can you post a link?

Walt on Mar 18, 2013 said:

Not yet. I printed a two piece 30% scale replica and weighed it down to match the wing loading of the finished plane in order to check for the proper CG location, and also to see how well it glides. I'm waiting for better weather before I risk flying the full size plane.

Walt on Mar 17, 2013 said:

Ok, so there are 223 downloads of the files after 15 days. So, has anyone actually printed any of the parts yet? It would be nice to know so that I have an idea when to make more instructions available, and to help with any problems. Thanks.

terrymisu on Jul 28, 2013 said:

I'm working on printing a 30% scale replica. So far I've got the wing tips done, but it doesn't seem like my 5% infill is working properly (the tips are printing as solid), so I may have to reprint. Which slicer do you use?

VGer on Mar 17, 2013 said:

I have printed your wings, but I and am re-designing.

Jewcookie on Mar 17, 2013 said:

I downloaded the whole set just to have a look. :) So 222 downloaders left who could have printed it!

Mando5 on Mar 8, 2013 said:

great job

KreAture on Mar 4, 2013 said:

I wonder if the passthroughs for CF rods should be defined but rest of wing should be filled so it can be specified in fill ration for slicer. That way lighter or heavier wing would be optional during slicing. Honeycomb fill would be very neat for fill in this case.

Walt on Mar 4, 2013 said:

I can assure you that you don't want to make the wing any heavier, but have a ball trying your own configurations! The version I've posted is an extrusion design with internal bracing and no fill. Make sure the surface layers bond together without a gap when you print. I made 10mm high test prints at first to adjust the holes for the CF rods before I ran the final prints.

rocketboy on Mar 2, 2013 said:

This is beautiful! Awesome job, I'm looking forward to see how it flies

VGer on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Well done it looks great.
Post details about motor, servos, propeller, receiver used.

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

I plan to post more details on the build, but my radio gear and motor are antiques. The motor is a brushed Astro 05 direct drive with a modern Graupner CAM 9-6 folding prop. The servos are old Futaba FP-S133 with an old FP-4NBL radio system. I really have to upgrade!

goaran on Mar 2, 2013 said:

did you already fly it ? id love to see a video of it

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Not yet. I'm still trying to refine the flexible control cable installation. I'm using flexible throttle cables, but there is too much slack in the cable due to the inner cable O.D. being much smaller than the sheath I.D. This causes poor response on the horizontal stabilizer because of the 90 degree bend in the cable. I had to use a ball joint at the end of a short servo arm to link to the cable.

MikeyB on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Wow, very impressive! There is no covering on this? It's all PLA? What are you printing on? Very interested to see where this goes.

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

I'm printing on a MakerGear M2 that I received last December.

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Totally PLA. The wing surface is 0.75mm thick using 0.25mm layers and 1 perimeter setting. This can be reduced with an overall thinner design, but the present, although a bit on the heavy side, is as rugged as a tank.

rp_one_labs on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Super cool!

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:


buzz on Mar 2, 2013 said:

now that' more like it! I've been trying to get people to do "whole plane" models for ages! I'm working on one myself right now. eg http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... and http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... and

Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

I see we have similar ideas for the wing panels. Mine are basically structural extrusions that stack together as do yours. We'll have to compare flight results. I tossed a 4 panel version of the pictured 8 panel wing off a 20 foot hill, and it glided for 349 feet in still air.

g00bd0g on Mar 2, 2013 said:


Walt on Mar 2, 2013 said:

Thanks! This is my first major project since getting my first 3D printer last December.