First Take Off of a fully printed (FDM) sailplane.

by wersy, published

First Take Off of a fully printed (FDM) sailplane. by wersy May 10, 2013

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To see it flying click the video button or watch it on You Tube
First of all: Yes, it flies wonderful, easy to fly with surprising self stabilisation. But a little bit faster than motor glider generally use to fly ;-)
And the best off all: It lands by itself...
In the meantime it learnt to land more softly and got strong wings: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:98954
Here you can see it fly: http://youtu.be/XIrR3X5ENus
And here is another video with stronger middle sections of the v-form wings:

And now - one year later, I finished my big aerobatic flying wing: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:407766
Helmut even added ailerons on his plane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xxPXxhPH3c


Yesterday we finally could start my radio controlled
motorised sailplane though the weather was very unsettled, partly raining and more wind then we wanted. But we wouldn't like to wait anymore.
Everything went well until at the third base leg. It seemed that it bored it already. First the plane suddenly got rid of one wing and looked for a quick landing. It was the field strait below.
Well, this was what I was worry about. The 8 bend is a weak point because the carbon tubes are not going through, they only meet each other. The middle 8 wing sections were printed with 3% infill, 0.2 mm layer height and ratio: 1.2 = 0.24 width, just to save weight.
In the meantime I printed it with 4% infill, layer height 0,3 mm and ratio: 1.2 = 0.36 mm. At the meeting points of the tubes I set a 4 mm wall, so the holes are not going through anymore. This gives a stable impression and I think even less infill would do it. We are just waiting for better weather to test it.
Also the fuselage broke at the connection between the forth and fifth section due to the hard crash. This part is hollow printed only with one perimeter but strong enough to survive normal landings.
I glued it already with additional thin printed patches on top and bottom side.
It is very important to have these parts as light as possible. Otherwise it displaces the centroid dramatically backwards and you will need ballast in the front.
Due to the high off weight of almost 960 g it needs a powerful motor and naturally a big and heavy accu. Accordingly the plane has to fly pretty fast. That means more stress to the parts and bonding surfaces as well. PLA is not easy to glue.
I want to give thanks to members of the ACNE.
Fortunately we have a lo of experienced pilots at the Aeroclub Niedereschbach ACNA e.V. nearby Frankfurt Germany: http://aero-club-nieder-eschbach.de
Without them, the plane would not have left the ground yet.
After I finished my design, I contacted them and they were so kind to give me valuable tips. So I had to redesign the whole fuselage other ten the tail. First I placed the servos one behind the other and planed to move the vertical rudder with two pull ropes. For more favourable centroid now they are side by side and moved more to the front. The steering is now controlled by 0,8 mm wires, which partly lie in 2 mm carbon pipes.
The holes in the rudder horns had to be smaller and are now 1 mm.
The centroid problem made it necessary to extend the nose extensive. To avoid ballast I tried out several noses. The current nose is now 55 mm longer and doesn't looks very good but needs no ballast anymore. To make it in harmony with the rest of the fuselage I have to redraw the complete fuselage. It will be a lot of work and I don't know, if I will find the time because I am already designing my next project reaching 2 meters wingspan or even more :-)
The plane became pretty heavy. The empty plane weights about 650 g. The wing (meanwhile 1550 mm wingspan) is the heaviest part: 450 g.
All together there are now nearly 960 g.
Before you are going to print the final wing, you have to buy the carbon rods and make sure that they fit into the wings because there are different!
I ordered some other (more light ones) and couldn't use them. If your rods don't fit, I will change the holes for you. If they are a little tight you can drill them carefully, or better use a reamer. The rods have to fit a bit tight so you don't need to glue. Glue makes it heavy.
I tried several ways to print the wings. The easiest and fastest way was to print only hollow 30 mm sections without infill and only one perimeter. Thus, all 30 mm results in a rib in each case consisting of 2 bottom layers and 2 top layers. If the holes in the wing sections are close-fitting enough you don't need to glue them. Just slide the wing panels onto the carbon pipes close together. The torsional stiffness will be good enough. But to hold the wings secured to the middle section tape them together with tape.
The two middle wing sections must be glue together of course.
This type of wing sections are up to 60 mm length suitable.
The most rigid type is the one with designed infill structure (wing_90_infill). You can print it as high as your printer can do. The only disadvantage is: it takes very much time.
All fin parts have holes for to dowel them together. 2 mm for 1.75 filament and 3.2 mm for 3.0 mm filament. These are only for adjusting. Of course additional they must be glued.
The inner horizontal rudders and the fin rudder have support on underneath its mounts.
Before fitting the horizontal middle fins to the tail you must remove very accurately the jutting edge of the first layer. Especially the inner nooks of the vertical nose have to be file off carefully.
Then the horizontal fins will fit exactly and tight to the tail and you almost don't need rubber bands for fastening :-)
The tail and rudder parts I printed with 0.3 mm layer height, 1 perimeter, 2 solid layers on bottom and top and no infill.
The rudder mounts with 0.2 mm layer height, 3 perimeter and 50% infill.
The inner ring on one side of each fusselage part is also a support. These must carefully break off or cut off afterwards.
All parts of the fusselage are printed with layer height 0.3 mm, 1 perimeter, 2 solid layers on bottom and top and no infill.
Except for the nose!
The motor frame is 2.5 mm thick and has to be solid. So you need at least 8 solid layers on bottom.
Edit 26.06.2013
I added new middle wing sections with structured infill. They are light and strong and already tested:

Edit 18.09.2016
I added a larger rudder for the fin "fin_rudder large".
I warmly recommend it because it increases the flight stability.

Roxxy BL-Outrunner 2834/08
Aeronaut Carbon Classic 9 x 6.5" / 23 x 16.5 mm
Propeller Mount
Axis-center distance: 45 mm
Borehole for motor shaft: 3.17 mm
Outer diameter: 35 mm
Operating voltage: 4.8 V
Response time: 0.11 sec
Torque: 1.4 kg
Transmission: Carbonite ball bearings,
Weight: 9g
Dimensions: 23x12x24mm
Carbon Tubes
2x 8/6 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 740 mm long - (for the wings)
1x 8/6 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 59 mm long - (for the wing middle sections)
2x 4/3 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 729 mm long - (for the wings)
1x 4/3 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 59 mm long - (for the wing middle sections)
1x 4/3 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 74 mm long - (front holding-down rod for the wings)
1x 4/3 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 72 mm long - (back holding-down rod for the wings)
1x 4/3 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 47 mm long - (holding-down rodd for the horizontal fin)
1x 2/1 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 210 mm long - (for the vertical rudder)
1x 2/1 mm (outer/inner diameter) x 450 mm long - (for the horizontal rudder)
1x 0.8 x 520 mm long (for the vertical rudder)
1x 0.8 x 470 mm long (for the horizontal rudder)
The next days I will give more information.

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Aug 13, 2017 - Modified Aug 13, 2017

Wie fiel Prozent Füllung beim drucken hattest du bei Trageflächen eingestielt Und wie groß sohlen die Trageflächen werden

Die Beschreibung ist etwas unübersichtlich geworden. Hier weiter unten hatte ich es schon beantwortet:
Die Flügelteile werden hohl (ohne infill) gedruckt.
Druckbreite: 0,5 mm
Layerhöhe: 0,3 mm
2 Bodenlayer
2 Decklayer
Die Spannweite beträgt 1,56 m

Just wanted to say Thank You! For letting us try out your model. I am very grateful for your hard work in creating this and sharing. I plan to do this project with my boys soon when the weather cooperates.
Best regards, Daniel.

Comments deleted.

Hi Daniel,
Thank you! Have much fun!
Best regards,

Do you speak german? i printed the hulf at 60% finish :) but i need a full build instrutcion please. i hope you speak german because my english is not so good... and a german instruction was very pretty :)

Eine komplette Baubeschreibung wäre zu umfangreich. Auf Englisch habe ich schon etliches beschrieben, schau mal, ob dir google translate weiterhilft.
Zum Rumpf
Die letzten drei Teile haben Support mit Deckenlayer, die müssen natürlich ausgebrochen werden.
Dann schauen, ob das Führungsrohr für das Seitenrudergestänge frei ist. Ebenso freier Durchgang für das Höhenrudergestänge.
Dann den Rumpf zusammenleimen.
Ansonsten einfach nach Details fragen.

Hey danke für die Rückmeldung :) wie sollten die Flügelteil befüllt haben?

Die Flügelteile werden hohl (ohne infill) gedruckt.
Druckbreite: 0,5 mm
Layerhöhe: 0,3 mm
2 Bodenlayer
2 Decklayer

Very nice project. What is oryginally wingspan - as on the photos?
Looks about 1 meter. Am I right?
Best regards

You are almost right.
The wingspan is 1.56 meter ;-)

Nov 20, 2016 - Modified Nov 20, 2016

I'm printing this now. Already have the body. Now printing the wings. Thanks for the design! What should i print for wing? There are wings here and also in another post? What pieces should i print? What about the sections of the wings? Do i need different pieces? Or print a amount of the 60mm pieces? I don't exactly know what to do. Can i make the wing larger then the 1m60? Or isn't that a good idea? Thanks already for the reply and awesome plane!

No, you don't need different sizes, you can take the 60 mm pieces. It is only a matter of personal taste if you use different colors.
Don't increase the wingspan above 1,6 m. The aspect ratio will be to high. Furthermore the heavy weight of the wing will reduce the flight stability very much. You need then a longer tail.

Thanks a lot! Will continue printing as light as possible to max 1,6m

Can anyone tell me the settings I need to use for this on my ultimaker 1

layer height (mm)
shell thickness(mm)
bottom/top thickness(mm)
fill density

The print settings are different for different parts.
You will find all informations on the "Instructions".

Thanks, got that started printing, but can you confirm the wings. do I print two of wing30 ,wing40 ect ect or just print wing 90??? sorry if this is like my 1st big print :) thanks

You can start with wing30 and if it goes well try wing60. It doesent matter what sections you print, in the end you have to reach the wingspan. The other wing I printed the 30 mm in black and the 60 mm in transparent.

Yet another wing
by wersy

Thanks. So how meny of the 60s do i need to print please. Thanks for the replys

You need 22 of 60 mm plus 2 of 30 mm.

Thank you for your help

Mar 22, 2015 - Modified Mar 22, 2015

How much filament dose it take to print it

As I wrote in the instruction:
"The plane became pretty heavy. The empty plane weights about 650 g. The wing (meanwhile 1550 mm wingspan) is the heaviest part: 450 g."

Thank you for your suggestion. This structure is very stable but also heavy. Furthermore it requires to plank it with a different material.
My aim is to avoid extraneous material and make it fully printable as much as possible.

Thank you for fast reply dear wersy, What is the plane empty finaly weight ? And what is the desined wingspan? and one more thing - what Brusheless motor did you use?

You will find the information if you look to "Instructions". If you have additional questions just tell me.
The first wing has already a weight of 3.27g per square centimeter. What ever you do, it should not be even heavier.

could it be printed on a 200mm cubed (8inch cubed) bed

No problem. Sometimes I would love to have such a huge printer ;-)
I printed all with my tiny Wersybot http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:37009http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

Wersybot - a derivate of The Printrbot
by wersy

could this be made so it prints on a 100mm cube bed?

I'm sorry, but this is not possible.

Any updates on this project?
For the wings you could try what I came up for on my 3D printed plane (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:272478)http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...
The wing sections are printed without any infill, in a spiral vase mode, the shape of the 3D object is such that the printing perimeter makes the outer skin, the tubes for the carbon fiber spars and internal supports in one single continuous motion.
I believe this technique is the lightests, fastest way to print a wing, IIRC a 150mm long wing panel takes 40/50 minutes to print. Thise could also be used for fuselage sections.

Nomad, an FPV/UAV 3D printed airplane.

Yes, you are right, I didn't use the right word, I meant notches instead of gaps at the lower side.
The inside perimeter are fused very well.

Spiral vase printing for wings is a good idea. As you can see on my boats, I love spiral vase printing :-)
The bridges between the top side and the lower side makes it possible to print long and strong wing parts. Of course they produces gaps on the lower side which have to be accepted. Additionally there are ribs for connecting needed .
All in all it is well thought out and a very good and inspiring example for spiral vase printing, especially for wings. Thank you very much.
As for my sailplane, I do not intend to update it. Currently I am working on another air plane with a different wing construction but I think it is not suited for spiral vase printing.

I'll be looking forward for that new design.
If the model dimensions are right there's no gap at the bottom of the wing with the method I mentioned, the two sides of the perimeter fuse together and there's only a small groove along the length. If done right (it takes a bit of testing) the internal supports touch and fuse against the inside of the upper surface, so everything holds together very well.

it's cool very cool

Aramid (Kevlar) tow might be a good reinforcing material for some of the parts to increase strength without weight. I think this would be preferable to carbon fibre as similar strength:weight ratio, less rigid, but also less likely to shatter on impact :-p , so tolerances could be closer. With PLA you should be able to get away with tacking the fibres with small dots of glue, thus using very little glue. I use ABS, so would probably melt the fibres into the structure with acetone (NB I haven't tried this, so test before buying it). See http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:91464http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... for some (non flying-related) tests with carbon fibre.
Melting fibres into the print would also be a great way of reinforcing propellers! (eg see Spenc's http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:96616http://www.thingiverse.com/thi..., but there's lots of others on thingiverse and github (and probably elsewhere))

Carbon Reinforced 3-d Prints
by RichMac
RC Plane Propeller
by Spenc

Thank you for your tip. I have seen it before. It is a very interesting way how to increase strength. You can particulary use it in areas with tensile stress.
As to airplanes, it will not look so nice if there are glued wires all over ;-) Maybe hide them inside the fuselage but to glue PLA is difficult anyway.

I Don't know if your interested but I have successfully Printed Props and used them on my 3d Reaktor. There inefficient and Noisy but still manage to put out a surprising amount of thrust. Its handy to be able to change the pitch when ever u like plus its fun to be able to say your using printed props !

This is very interesting. I couldn't believe that printed props realy work and are proper printable as well. It would make huge fun to have even printed props. But I am afraid I have to use the best possible and optimized to the motor to get the heavy plane up from the ground ;-)

I'm Pretty sure you could Print out props that would work. The tricky part is getting the area and pitch of the blade right to pull it through the air. This would depend allot on what Motor setup your running. Low speed high torque are probably more suited for printed props as they tend to flex and some times shatter at higher speeds. Its ideal for my 3d plane as it designed for doing low speed tricks(Knife edge, Prop hang etc). But If you want to go to the extent of all that messing around send me an email and ill post u my prop files for you to have a play with.

The long nose (Fuselage011_62long) is MODIFIED!

I chamfered the back edge of the assembling opening. On printing this is a narrow bridge and this is better to print now.

Do you have any information on how to build/assemble?

Oh, what happened? I can't believe it.
The complete instructions is disappeared!
Sorry, I think I have to write everything one more time.

Maybe you can contact thingiverse and see if they have a change log for the description?

Thank you for your advise.

Once I contacted Thingiverse I didn't get an answer.
I have partly saved something and I try to complete it. Please tell me then what you are interesting furthermore.

It seems the nose cone is missing from the files. I would also love a breakdown of how many of each part I have to print and at what settings (I have no idea what wing50 or wing40 is or at what settings you printed the fuselage). What Battery and Motor and Carbon Rod did you use?

Overall it seems the build instructions are currently interwoven in the story. It would be awesome to split up the build from the process of developing, testing and flying the plane.

Can't wait to finish this build, thank you so much for sharing.

You're right, now the instruction has become somewhat confusing. I will try to split it a little.
Before I can upload the nose I need to change it a little. Additional I will split the nose, for those who cannot print such high. The current nose measures 161.3 mm.

Wing40 or Wing50 means, how long (40mm or 50 mm) the wing section is.
It depends on you, which one you like to print. At the current wing I used only Wing30. Now on my second wing, with a different design but the same profile, I
used Wing60 for the transparent parts.
Anyway, (without the middle sections and the wingtips) you must reach 690 mm on each side.

Before you are going to print the final wing, you have to buy the carbon rods and make sure that they fit into the wings because there are different!
I ordered some other (more light ones) and couldn't use them. If your rods don't fit, I will change the holes for you. If they are a little tight you can drill them carefully, or better use a reamer. The rods have to fit a bit tight so you don't need to glue. Glue makes it heavy.

The big carbon rods are 8 mm outer diameter and 6 mm inner diameter. Better take ones with 7 mm diameter.
The little carbon rods are 4 mm outer diameter and 3 mm inner diameter.

The next days I will give moreinformation.

I am glad that you really wantto print the plane and I can't wait to see it fly :-)
It would be nice if you show some parts you already printed.

Exelent Project!

Is there any chance you could upload the nose you have for thoughs of us who can build 160mm high, and then when you upload the split nose people could have an optoion as to which one to use ( I personally would prefer the larger one, so I dont have to make muliple prints )

Thanks for the exelent project!

I just uploaded the large nose just for you :-)
How come that you can print such high? Do you have a Printrbot? ;-)
Don't be irritated if you see that the nose stands somewhat crooked. The motor frame has 3° down thrust and 2° side pull.
And please, you all, don't take me amiss that this is not a nice nose. As I already mentioned, it would be a huge work, because it needs to make a complete new fuselage.

What motor, prop size, battery and esc did you use? I'll use your setup as it seemed to fly very well. I'll order them along with some carbon rods.

I'll post a few pictures as I get further along.

I added some information to "Instructions".

Sorry for the delay (I know promised pictures) but I'm currently experimenting printing Nylon. It took me a while to get that printing reliably. It seems like the perfect material to build parts of the plane with (more crash resistant). I'm currently printing some parts I had printed before to compare the weight and strength. Photos soon!

This is great! You are realy doing pioneer work. I am looking forward to see to see your results and how you think about it.
Maybe it gives us new opportunities :-)

Extraordinary performance for such an unusual material!

Thanks for sharing wersy. Amazing project! Andrew (http://3dhacker.com3dhacker.com)

Congratulations on an inspiring project. i guess you printed this on your Wersybot too? I look forward to seeing how this printed RC plane idea develops, and to making one and reliving my youth!

Just mind you stay clear of those power lines in the background

Old guys rock!!

Yes, of course, I printed all with my Wersybot. Even 165 mm high. But then the z-rods touching only one and a half bearing and one nut :-)
Everything is repaired and I am waiting for better weather and - a smooth landing ;-)
Additionel I am just printing another type of wing. A straight middle section with 20°-ears on outsides. It should bring even more self stabilisation.
Yes, 3D printing keeps as youthfully :-)
With all I am a late bloomer.
20 years ago I was extremely windsurfing.
10 years ago I was the oldest who designed with 3D Max
And now I think I am the oldest raprap printer :-) Or is there anybody older then me?

I say bravo too, you might want to try using abs material on one of your tries the bonding you can get from thick juice could solve some of your problems also you could use the higher flexibility of the material in case of a crash :).
But I say bravo bravo :D

Thank you terramir, and you're absolutely right. ABS could be the ideal material. We could even save weight and it is so easy to glue.
A member of our club http://www.hackerspace-ffm.de/http://www.hackerspace-ffm.de/ tried already to print a thin walled wing( the one with designed infill structure (wing_90_infill) but he had trouble with warping. Maybe we should try with different temperatures and speed.
If anybody can print a good wing in ABS, please report.

The higher flexibility can also be an advantage, but please - no crashes anymore;-)

wrap your printer in a towel while printing it helps with the warping

Oh, I don't think my wife would like to have niffy towels ;-)
The printer already has a perfect acrylic enclosure even with a filtered exhaustion.


Nice project! It got priority #1 on my print list. ;-) The rudder stuff is nearly finished. Coming up next: The wings. Btw: What settings do you recommend for the body?

"Hals und Beinbruch" from Hanover!

You really want to print it? Great!

For the body I used 0.3 mm layer height and EWH ratio 1.7 = 4.1 width.
All parts of the plane (excluding the middle sections of the wings) are hollow and have to be printed with only one perimeter. Therefore try to print all parts as hot as possible to make sure that the layer are firmly fused together.
I always printed the PLA with 230°C.

well done, looks amazing.will add lo my long list of things i want to make

Congratulations!!! cool project

This has got to be the most impressive 3D printing project I've seen! Must have taken you months to design and print the whole plane! Awesome stuff! Thanks for sharing!

Thank you. Yes, it has actually taken months. Primarily because I absolutely had no idea of remote controled airplanes. My only experience: 40 years ago I built a control line airplane :-)
But you can print it pretty quickly because all parts, except the wing middle sections, have no infill.

That's just amazing and inspiring! I have no knowledge on how to build a remote controlled plane either, and I wouldn't know where to begin. Maybe if I print your plane out and build it myself, I'll learn a lot! Gotta give it a go!

Yes, give it a try. At least you will learn both: how a RC plane works and how to print strong but lightweight parts. But I wouldn't recommend it for you to fly because it has to be fast. Except you find a good pilot - as I did ;-)
If you want to learn how to fly, take a slow one - as I will do :-)

Awesome awesome awesome.

I hope you get featured.

Thank You again Sanjay,
Our hopes came true :-)

Thank you Sanjay.
Featured? Oh, that wuold be great :-)

Fantastic! How much does it weigh in total?

Just click "Read More" ;-)
Total weight: 950 g.
Your plane is much more nice. But I think it is a little bit heavy, specially the mechanics in the vertical stabilizer will displace the centriod backwards.
I hope to see your plane flying soon. And try to find a good pilot - as I did ;-)

Good luck!

The CG has been experimentally determined based on a previous glide test model, and so I've balanced out the equipment to meet that location. The reason why it works is that the old Astro 05 motor and prop alone weigh 7.45 oz. It will have to fly fast, and that is what concerns me as I haven't flown a plane in years. Soon though!

This is pretty much and should bring a good balance. What ist the total weight?

I think it will be faster as mine. If the motor is strong enough it will fly for sure!

This looks awesome. Do you plan to post a complete parts list? Thanks!

Yes, of course.

Great project! Thank you for sharing.