Fully 3D printed modular RC Sailplane.

by Walt, published

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


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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Literally the third word says what the wingspan is 48 inches.....man some people.

I hope everyone here is having a wonderful day and preparing for the Christmas holiday right around the corner.

I have just started to print this aircraft and admit it is fascinating. However, being a nubee when it comes to the 3D printing scene, it is coming out far from perfect and a bit heavy. I understand that PLA was used in printing and it's what I am currently using. I see there have been numerous downloads and hopefully prints but, hasn't anyone completed this model and flown it? What are your all up weights, material used, electronics used, printer settings that have produced the best results? I will continue my venture, but it would be nice if there were a depository of useful information regarding this said model.

Father Francis

Not sue, but go check out the remix one anyway.. I tried but it didn't make it .. never put a motor o n it, I could tell it wouldn't fly well.. So I did invest in the other parts.. But I watch the videos, and no.. it doesn't really work.. LOL

Not sure if you've already answered this, but do you have a list of the electronics and other parts you used?

Sorry, this is a tad late, but my gear is very old. The important parts are the two micro type servos. The motor was an old brushed Astro 05. The motor is very heavy, and so today's motors would require added weight, or extending the fuselage front to get the CG forward to the proper point.

Dont know what Walt use but this is my list:
-2836 1000kv
-40a esc
-2.2ah 3s lipo
-4x 4.6kg servo

+added aileron both side of the wing.

How many channels is it?

Its 3ch, im planning modify to 4ch, split tail to 2
1100kv brushless 350w
3s 2.2Ah
esc 30a
3x 4.6kg servo

I printed this thing and was intriqued by the great engineering skills - love it. However, after assembling the body and tail gears and fins, it is too tail heavy and the tail wing will not carry the weight unless you have a jet engine. It is a good start, but will require some rethinking. The main body will do better with a thin shell and allow the builder to just glue on what is needed.

I admit that the central body could be lightened quite a lot. The CG works out correctly with my old Astro 05 direct drive motor and prop mounted up front. The newer and lighter brushless motors would require adding weight to the nose to get the CG back up under the wing, or extend the nose further out to compensate. Good luck!

@Walt any plans to upload the assembly PDF and what electronics you used?

Please shere assembly file &electronic kit

you should make the wings foldable like a car antenna

HI does it fly ok? I would really like to print this! but someone said some think about weight is off so wont fly?

Comments deleted.

I am finished printing the wing. It is just 231g (8.15oz) including carbon rods.
Printed in PLA with 0.2mm nozzle. And there is still room for weight reduction.

I have a question. What did you use as a pin to bind stab control link and horns?

The large pins that pass through the entire vertical stab were made from short lengths of piano wire that were cut to length using a cutoff wheel on a Dremel. Carbon fiber could be used, but it is rough and will wear on the parts when moving.

Sorry for the late reply, but I used a piece of a small paper clip. You can use any stiff material that will bend. One of the connecting pins is trapped between two walls, and so it should be flush with the part it passes through so as not to snag on the wall when moving.

He might of used those carbon fiber rods he takled about in the description...

what infill are you printing at?

what infill are you printing at?

How much power does it take to use it and how much filament does it take to print

Great design! I'd like to print one!
Have you tried it in air?

I tried to print wing section with 0.2 nozzle - just to save some weight. It looks like model walls are approx 0.5mm thickness. When slicer generates external and internal perimeters they are not stick together. As result stiffness is very poor. Same model printed with 0.3 nozzle is much more rigid (but 1.5 times heavier)

I tried different slicers and parameters - same thing, space between external and internal perimeters.

Could you please share model sources so that I can fix walls thickness? Or change it for me to 0.3-0.4mm?

I used a layer height of .25mm and a single wall width of .39mm. If you can match that, then the layers should bond in the majority of areas, or at least it did for me. The wing panels will be a bit heavy, but then that's the best that can be done based on the strength to weight ratio of the material. Once carbon fiber filament becomes common I'm sure you'll see a large reduction in weight as you could use less material. You can slice the STL model to give you the profile of the wing section, and then just outline it to create a new solid of your own liking.

I am using smaller nozzles - 0.2 and 0.3mm. As I said model is ok for 0.3 nozzle, but not suitable for 0.2mm one.

I opened your STL file in Solidworks, then re-created the model with 0.4mm walls. Now when I slicing for 0.2mm nozzle it produces exactly 2 perimeters (outer and inner) for each wall. These perimeters are sticked together so that printed model will be a little more strong. My expectation each 110mm panel will weight about 13.5g.

It is printing right now. Will see whether it is really strong enough and light enough...

Good luck, and don't forget that the wings depend on 3 carbon fiber rods for strength.

Yeah, I know. I had also change holes for these fiber rods so that they match my rods diameter (4mm).

I was experimenting with different slicer parameters, nozzles and materials. With ABS and 0.2 nozzle wing section weights just 13.5g. PLA version is a little heavier (16g), but much stronger.

Next step is to print wing tips. You suggested to print with 5% infill. gcode.ws projects weight of 27g which is pretty heavy comparing to wing sections.

I have an idea how this can be reduced to ~15g by removing infill and adding ribs instead (similar to wing section). Currently I am re-implementing wing tips models in Solidworks, but stuck with copying curves from your original models (they appear similar but not exactly the same and not so pretty)

Could you please share wing tip model source with me? This will help me a lot with making model lighter. I'll send you back updated models.

How do I go about sending you the files for the wing tips?

Hi Walt,

Tried to rich you via private message.

Please send me files to [email protected]

There is a problem sending to your address. I received the following email delivery status notification:
"Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 Sender verify failed"
You will have to either allow my email to be received somehow, or give me another email address to try.


I've sent you STEP format CAD files twice, once being today. If you don't receive them, then give me another email address to try.

Very nice job, I love your design !

By the way,I found that many parts have suspended structure,how can I keep them from collapsing?Print a support?I don't feel like printing support because they are difficult to remove and may influence the assembly,I think.Do you have any suggestions?

If the parts are oriented for printing as they appear in the Thingiverse thumbnails, then there shouldn't be any need for supports. The STL files were all generated using the TOP view, and so the parts are already oriented properly for printing.

The plane is pretty good and I really like it.I have printed about a quarter of these parts and found they are really heavy.Have you flown this plane?Another question is,the fuselage doesn't fit the tail very well.I'm not so experienced in 3D printing,so probably I don't have the right settings.All I can do is to grind some parts so they can fit well.

Hi Walt! I'd like to know if you use any raft or support material while printing the fuse main front part.Thanks!

Hi Walt
I am almost finished printing your plane! (Thanks)
As I am new to 3d printing and RC planes can you help me:

  • Is there PDF assembly document (you mentioned doing one)
  • what motor-props-servo do I use to fit this plane
    Note I didn’t scale it.
    Thanks for your answer!

I never created a detailed PDF of the assembly steps, but if I find the time I'll gather all the comments I've made about assembly. The motor I designed around was an old direct drive Astro 05 cobalt. I'm sure you can find a motor to fit the space with even more power. The servos are Futaba FP-S133 from way back, and are discontinued. Compare the dimensions and mounting hole locations when looking for a modern replacement. I used flexible ball type throttle linkage cables for the servos, as there isn't a lot of room in that area. If you aren't skilled at flying, then I'd suggest a seasoned flyer help you check out the plane. Have the person balance the plane for proper CG and balanced wing. I would test glide before powered flight if possible. Post a photo in the 'Made' section, and Good Luck!

Also worst case senario and I have to scale down to like 90% will all still work or will the motor not fit exactly or any other issues you may foresee? Sorry for all the questions I am just really hoping I can do this project

Scaling would be a problem, as the motor cavity would be reduced along with the area for the servos. Standard size CF rods would no longer fit the wing sections as well. Your best bet would be to section the large pieces, and cement them together later.

Thanks and are there any pieces that are over 100mm tall that I couldnt fit if I rotated them?

Hey any one know wich is the biggest piece that needs to be printed and how big it is I might need to scale it down

The longest piece is the back quarter of the fuselage which is 148 mm on the longest dimension. This is the section where the servos mount. The tubular tail sections are around 135 mm in length.

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?


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 :)

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!

You mean your prints also only bond the internals together, without a single extrusion on the whole airfoil perimeter? I think for this to be actually flyable that would be kinda necessary.
Thank you :)

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Anyone have this fling yet?

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!

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

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

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

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!

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!

I guess the clue is in the name then :P

Once again, love your work

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 :)

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.

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

How much on the Wing panels? It says "0." infill... is that a typo?

The wing panels are an extrusion rather than a filled solid, and so there isn't any infill required. The wing tips do have a filled solid portion, and so there is a value of infill stated.

Thank you for the informations! And if I print one, I will shorely upload some pictures :)

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?

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.

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

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!

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.

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

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.

The center section could use less fill, and more perimeters, but since it is highly stressed I played it safe on the first version. If you create a lighter and strong enough version please let everyone know.

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

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.

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.

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?

I just added the left and right half STL files for the solid 30% replica. You may want to carve out an area in the front fuselage to add weight before you glue the halves together.

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

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

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.

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.

It was ment to reduce the weight not increase it.

Reason is the software takes into acocunt the nozzle widths which a static design cannot. The only things that are important are the positions of the channels for supports. The rest of the structure should ideally be empty but depending on the printer the fusing may be hard. I guess I am refering to the center section which seems heavy to me. The outer panels are beautiful and the rigid structures around the support-channels should bond them well. They do however define a skin width which makes printing them with very fine printers a very slow task of many many perimiters.

The center section could be lightened by several means, but for now I can guarantee you it won't break. The wing can be lighted slightly, but at the cost of some strength. The fuselage is very strong and can also be lightened somewhat when printed. All in all the plane will be a bit on the heavy side due to the materials used, but the freedom to customize and replace parts makes it worth the effort.

Definately :)

The joy of printing it is even worth the wait.

It's mezmerizing to watch as it is built layer by layer.

I wish Slic3r was a bit more clever in it's choice of paths though. Going back and forth for silly little thing sit could have detoured to the first time seems redundant and just a way to create strings/fur.

For now my movements are limited to 20mm/s which is excruciatingly slow.

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

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

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!

Thanks... I better start stocking up.
Once again great job, and I second goaran, post a video if you can.
Oh... and release the remaining file as soon as possible please I have got an idle printer waiting for them.

I've posted the remaining files on the MakerGear website. Select MakerGear Google Group from the left menu and search for Fully 3D Printed ... I'm not going to post the rest to Thingiverse until I have all the bugs worked out, so please build at your own risk.

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

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.

I have to say that rather than a T-tail I would have designed it as a conventional tail. That would lighten up the vertical fin (thinner=lighter) and integrate the horizontal stabiliser control on the inside of the tail boom and use a rod actuator along the tail. A conventional tail would make the plane less propense for the stabiliser to be on the wake on the wing since you are using a suspended fuselage config. your main wing wake will be very high.

Feel free to customize as you wish. I'm hoping that this will get people interested enough to start a new chapter in the hobby world. The reason I chose the T-tail is mainly the look, and it also helps prevent damage to the horizontal stab when landing. All the control cables are internal and out of the airflow.

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.

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

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.

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/thing:44364http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... and http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:51580http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... and

Connectable wing section - NACA4
by buzz
UAV design.
by buzz

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.

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