Pull String Helicopter

by 271828, published

Pull String Helicopter by 271828 Feb 18, 2013

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59242Views 17531Downloads Found in Mechanical Toys


A pull string helicopter that flies well and is easy to assemble.
ABS is the recommended material for best part survival.
As requested SolidWorks 2011 source files are posted. Blade profiles are not optimized. Try to design better shapes that can be easily printed without support and upload your progress!


  1. Look at the provided pictures to familiarize yourself with the helicopter. It was designed to fly best with the tapered side of the blades down and also the tapered portion of the spool centers the propeller when launching in this orientation.
  2. Print all parts and the propeller with the number of desired blades (at this time I have only tried the 5 blade). I printed in ABS using 3 perimeters, 0.2 mm layer height, 25% fill and a 1 cm brim to help hold the tall parts on the print bed. The narrow part of the spool was printed solid. No support was needed if printed in the given orientation. You know your setup best so adjust accordingly.
  3. Cut 3.5 ft of string and tie a 2 in loop on each end. A thin strong material is ideal, I used 150 lb test spectra fishing line.
  4. Find a rubber band in the 3 in x 0.25 in range, loop it through the bottom of the spool, back through the rubber band and pull snug.
  5. Slide the rubber band and spool into the handle and attach one end of the string to the hole in the center of the spool using the same looping procedure. Attach the other end of the string to the pull.
  6. Slide the propeller onto the spool, tapered side toward the spool, and wind the string onto the spool. Pull the rubber band through the end of the handle and loop it around the center of the plate. Twist the plate and rubber band a few times so the string retracts and then slide the plate into the handle. At this point the rubber band should not pull too heavily on the spool.
  7. Oil the spool so it spins easily in the handle. If not oiled the plastic can friction weld together.
  8. Give the helicopter a pull and try not to break too many things.

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super cool .. i printed it at 70% to fit my five year olds hands ... still works at that scale!! ( with 6 blades )

My children love it. No single parts.
I printed the spool in Iglidur. That is gliding fantastic.
Thank you

what cad program and layer hight did you use

I used SolidWorks for the design and printed it with 0.2mm layers.

printed absolutely perfect fit without any sanding, super job thanks. this is a awesome toy my grandson is going to love it! printed on a robo 3dr plus using cura option engine.

I'm glad it's working for you!

Printed mine on a makerbot 5th gen. The spool does not fit in the handle. I forced it in and now it is jammed in there. Definately not spinning.

The tolerances are very tight. i would suggest using some sand paper to make the spool thinner.

That's not good. The spool diameter is undersized with respect to the handle to prevent this problem. somehow excess material was printed on the spool or inside of the handle. You could try sanding the two mating surfaces? Good luck!

or, there is a problem in the 3d model.

Study completed, all in the name of science of course. The 2 bladed prop is the most efficient, going the highest (About 75 feet as best I can guess). I will now make a stand for the system and proudly display it in my showcase. I will upload the final picture when that's done.

Thanks again

great now i can print one and not have to think lol. i will use the 2 blade prop. i've found if you balance a 1 blade prop it can be even more efficient flying rc planes, but it looks funny.

Thanks for posting the 2 blade. I will print-fly- and report back....LOL
Can you tell I am only 56 ?

I just printed the whole thing and it turned out great. The first time I pulled the cord, the spool sheared right off at the flange. This was easily fixed by giving it a 75% fill instead of 10%. Is there anyway you could make a two blade prop. As an aviator, and pilot, I would like to test the full range from 2 to 6 blades. The customized one here look like a different hub, and I want to keep everything the same except the blade count.

Very nice design, i've been printed two "Pull string helicopter" for my childreen , they are very happy ^^

i cant wait to fly it i got my 3d printer as an early Christmas present built it and started printing on Christmas this will be the funnest thing yet its printing as we speak

It would be cool if this was like real ones where a toothed string is pulled. A zip tie could possibly be utilized. Just a thought.

A zip tie could work or the pull could be printed. I might have to try it out after i finish building my next printer.

I tried to print the pale.stl but always in print after 1 or 2 layer is easier to ear a strong vibration and after that the extruder shift in X for 5-10 mm because it start to misalign the external circle.

What can be the problem of this vibration and motor shift when printing large circles?
Is see that other time with big models.

Thanks in advance

This could be from the stepper motors missing steps under to large a load. The X axis might be binding in certain positions or the print head moves faster when printing large circles. I'm not really sure beyond that.


I hope in some others suggestions.
I miss just the pale.. :)

Ho fatto due elicotteri in Italia e li ho mandati ad un bambino rumeno che e' stato felicissimo e gioca tutti i giorni.
Grazie del bel progetto.

I'm glad it is being enjoyed, thanks for sharing.

I printed this in PLA. Design seemed fine, slicer worked fine (MakerWare), and the PLA seemed plenty strong. The problem I had is that the spool kept welding itself to the handle due to the friction (even with some teflon lube), and the string was cutting into the side of the opening.

I have been working on a new handle that adds a ball bearing for the spindle, and metal dowel pins for the string to ride on, and a better clip on the bottom for winding the rubber band, and that is working great so far. I am planning on posting my files when it is done. It will be compatible with these propellers. Just curious though, what is the actual pitch of the helix? I estimated 2 inches per revolution, but that doesn't quite feel the same. Maybe 50mm instead?

Nice work though!

I'm glad you are having fun with it! The pitch of the helix used on the spool is 2 inch per revolution. I just downloaded and checked the SolidWorks file.

I built this at 75% scale with PLA and it works great. I did paint the fins with Krazy Glue to keep them together better, and my only problem so far is that I don't have strong enough fishing line to pull it hard (15lb).

I'm glad you like it. The fins were getting thin at 100%, good job printing at 75%!

I printed it with PLA. The handle was too tall for my printer, so I printed part of it again upside down and glued it onto the first printed partial handle. I couldn't find any thin string, twine or fishing line in the house, so used some entirely unsuitable thick string.

The print looks good! the string could use work.

Just out of curiosity, what function does the rubber band perform?

It holds the spool in the handle and acts as a retract for the string with varying success.

Wow, what an awesome job on this toy. I just came back in from playing with this outside, I had all the neighbor kids trying it and just having a blast.

I'm going to print a bunch of them to hand out to the Neighborhood kids so they can have flying battles!!! Pictures to come soon!

Thank you! I'm glad everyone likes it.

Has anyone printed this in PLA yet? I have done 3 complete prints of the handle and each one has broken with the slightest pressure. I am not sure that PLA lends itself to this without thicker walls on the handle

PLA might not work if the handle is being damaged that easily. I'm also interested because I have never used PLA before. The spool and blades experience large loads when launching and the blades when crashing into things. At this time I will add a note recommending ABS.

Ok The print with 50% hexagonal infil and 3 perimeters resulted in a nice solid handle and spool. The blades I kept at 25% with 3 perims. Now its all printed it works great. I am getting at least 20ft of lift and could most likely get a lot more with a bit more pull strength.

Great! Glad it worked out.

I am currently doing a print of the handle with 3 perimeters and 50% hex infil. That has proven itself to be very robust in other prints I have done.I will let you know how it works out.

The bottom plate is now in the zip. file.

Source files? I'd like to modify. (Also, 3 blade works OK)

Can you use SolidWorks 2011 files? The 5 blade will easily hit the 40 ft. ceilings at work. The bottom plate is in the download list and can be downloaded separately. I’m not sure how to get it into the .zip file. The flat side of the prop should go up for best results.

Solidworks 2011 is perfectly fine, there are actually a lot of solidworks users on thingverse. Thanks in advance!

I will post the files when I get home.

Having all sorts of issues printing the handle. It doesnt seem to want to slice correctly using slic3r. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I used Slic3r 0.9.8 and it worked fine, is it giving geometry errors?

For me it lays down the first say 1cm fine - but when it starts to build the sides leading to the first section it goes bonkers.

Are you printing in the orientation shown in the STL file, top of the handle on the bed? Is the print getting soft and melting, not sticking between layers, not laying enough plastic? Can you describe the problem?

Yes I am printing with the default orientation. What seems to be happening is the print head is not lifting correctly and begins ramming into the print itself. I have tried adjusting the retraction and the distance from the bed to the nozzle and it keeps on doing it.

This sounds like a printer or slic3r issues. Try printing a different tall thin object and see if it works or lower the print speed or minimum print time spent on each layer or set slic3r for solid fill at the thinner areas. This could also be many other issues.

Yeah whats weird is I printed lego vader last night and his light saber handle which is a tall thin object came out just fine.

I resliced the handle file and it looks good. Try homing your printer and moving the Z axis up and down to known distances from the bed and measure to see if they are reached. These moves should be done at faster speeds. If all positions are accurately reached it is software and if not, could be hardware? The Vader you printed looks good so I don’t really know.

I resliced and added a bunch of retracton on and It seems to have printed ok - The issue was occuring when it was trying to do the bridges and the inner egde was curling up - which is generally a sign of not enough cooling - strange because both fans were going. The resultant print was not exactly pretty. I am going to have another go with a cooler environment

Thanks for your help