Working 3D printed Helicopter Blades

by tlalexander, published

Working 3D printed Helicopter Blades by tlalexander Jan 22, 2012
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Helicopters are complex machines. They require high quality parts that are strong, lightweight, and accurate. Those are terms typically not associated with parts made on home 3D printers.

But could they be?

We all know home machines are getting better, but could you actually print a working helicopter on a home 3D printer? The obvious place to start is the blades. They must be thin, light, smooth, and strong. If you can't print blades, you can't make a helicopter. So can you?

Well, spoiler alert: you can. But do they actually work? Or do they fly apart when they spin up, or generate too much turbulence to actually fly?
See for yourself:

Printed on my Ultimaker 3D printer, using Netfabb "Ultra" (0.08mm) profile, 100% infill, 100% speed, no raft. Takes about 26 minutes per blade.

The helicopter is the "JXD 340", or sometimes the "Drift King" because unlike most cheap helis, it can fly sideways. Its a pretty awesome toy for $30, and much better than most cheap helis I have seen. Personally, I recommend it. Have a link:
And no thats not an affiliate link, I just think those toys are sweet.

SAFETY NOTE: I recommend PLA because it sticks well and works well with small layer heights. HOWEVER, PLA is brittle, and when these blades break, they tend to shear off and send a sharp piece flying. The pieces are light and it may not be an issue, but you have been warned. If you're about to crash, cut throttle power so the blades stop spinning and the amount of energy put into them is reduced. They've survived plenty of nicks on things, but if you crash under power they will break. Ultimately though, I am not responsible. Print at your own risk.


EDIT4: Now with source files! Solidworks 2012. Both blades are there. Suppress the last "body delete" command to show the other blade. Unsuppress one or the other when saving STL Files. Use the coordinate system I added when exporting (in STL options. might already do it by default now)

EDIT 3: Added some new smaller blades. They don't have as much lift but the heli seems to fly faster. Interesting! They are 2A and 2B, and print in about 17 minutes apiece. Also, sorry, this is getting messy, I should probably re-write this section.

EDIT 2: Added pictures of a blade as printed, before being removed from the bed. Its actually a slightly smaller design I'm working on, but it demonstrates the orientation. I will try to get higher quality pics soon.

EDIT: STL Orientation is now correct. In case there is any question: Print the blade upside-down from the flying configuration - you'll see that there is a slight flat on that side. The overhangs seem to work OK with small layer heights.

There's an A blade and a B blade. A goes on top, B goes on bottom. Unscrew the old blades and screw these right on.

Aside from yanking off some fluff with my fingers, I didn't so any secondary operations on these things. Just print and go.

Print these with small layer heights (I used 0.08mm) and blast it with a fan to keep it from deforming while printing. They're only 0.025" (.65mm) thick, so they want to deform. I used PLA, no raft, printed on blue tape, and most of the time they stick well enough to print. I have no idea if this would work with ABS. Also I'd print these one at a time to avoid stringing.

If you buy one of these helis, pick another part and try to 3D print it. If we can slowly replace all the parts on this thing with 3D printed parts, we will have eventually created a home 3D printable helicopter! Let me know if you do - mark your part as a derivative or something so we can keep track!

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Does yours really fly sideways? I'm pretty sure we have the same copter and this one most certainly does not.

Yup, it does fly sideways. It was sold as the "Drift king" helicopter on Amazon.

Lol nice disclaimer.. just crashed mine and made a tail fin and thought I wonder if anyone on Thingiverse has made blades. Awesome! Glad to see video proof of it working before I waste my time printing too.

I'm going to be a rebel and print it in ABS because the ultimate recon vehicle needs to be lightweight. Also hopefully won't shatter because is less brittle than PLA.

Hay tlalexander
I was wondering if the blades would work on the syma S107G IR helicopter?

Sorry for the late response, but I have heard people say they work.

They are actually too small for S107, I was silly enough to print them straight away without even checking the size.
I am now trying with the small version, scaled almost 150% on the length, and 120% on the width, same Z dimension.

Really great !
I dit it at a larger scale in ABS (x 1.5 ix X direction) for a bigger helicopter.
Works very fine. Quite lite ang resistant.
As much efficient as genuine parts (except a slight whisle due to the iregularities on the blades).
Material : ABS
Nozzle: 0.5 mmm
Layer: 0.1 mm

i have just finished printing these blades. and i just noticed that they are not a pair. even in the photo you can see how theres two different blades on each rotor. one has a narrower tip than the opposite side. this is a huge mistake. thanks for trying thought. i still had fun although the prints are worthless.

ok. now i get it. you are absolutely correct. this was my mistake. i did not realize what was meant by blade A and blade B. right now they are printing and looking perfect. so happy about this. thanks for your knowledgeable help. your awesomeness level has just been raised a few notches. thanks for such a great service to the world. i will be printing this for all the kids in my neighbourhood. so many models were grounded because we can not get this things in this part of Spain. muchas gracias!

Hello Maya,
There is no mistake, and the photo does not show two different types of blades. The narrower looking blades in the photo are simply pitched away from the camera. There are two different blade files for you to try printing, and I have provided files for both the left and the right side. Specifically, you should print two copies of Small_heli_blade_A and Small_heli_blade_B, which are the left and right versions of Small_heli_blade. I have another file, called Small_heli_blade_2, which has both an A and a B and is different dimensions, and you can print two of each A and B for that one instead.
But I assure you, for each A and B set they blades are identical - all I did was mirror the output with no changes in geometry. I suggest you print one of each of the 4 blade types so you can see what I mean. Thanks.

Really nicely made ! Do you think the tail propeller could also be printed out ...or this is too small for an ultimaker ?

Also! what did you do about infill etc? I assume it would be solid with maybe .10mm print at least or smaller?

The little stretched figure 8 looking support/ball joint bridge that sits across/connects the top weight/balance and the first set of blades broke on mine. One is fine, I will try and measure it and try to model this but have you/ would you as well?

Gonna buy a heli on Thursday after paycheck gets here. What other formats can you save in? I use Creo.

I have a Blade Cx2, I might mod your blades to mount into that. Need to make some adapters I think....

I just bought a Blade mSR X, which is the fixed pitch step down from the mCX 2. There's a lot more energy in those blades than there are in my little toy heli I used before. Haven't tried printing blades for that yet.

The mCX 2 is collective pitch, so the blades don't need/have any curve to them. That should make them much easier to print actually!

Have you scanned the body yet? Can you can the body, and all the parts and have them set up as a .STL so you can get the 3D printed helicopter out there so anyone can enjoy one?

I can't get these to print sucsessfully in PLA or ABS.

generate some support material, i have printed with PLA in my reprap successifully

Using an Ultimaker? Sliced how?

Thing-o-Matic, latest RepG.

I'm not sure how to slow the print down, it's doing it in 9 mins.

What layer height? These are very tricky parts to print. Not sure if the TOM can do it.

Your STLs (As rendered for the thingiverse preview image) seem to be oriented upright, but your photos show layering lines along the blades.

I presume that these are infact printed leading/trailing edge to the bed?

Fixed the STLs

Yeah, sorry about that. I do note in the "instructions" section how they should be oriented. But I will add some pictures of them on the print bed, and I will try to fix the STLs soon. Soldworks's "TOP" plane is not the same as STL's TOP plane. But I think Solidworks can use different coordinate systems when exporting. I'll figure it out in a few.

Impressive work! Nice one!