Sep 1, 2015 | By Alec
When it comes to 3D printing fun electronic toys, quadcopters have been in charge for a very long time. It has come to a point where you can check out a new design, iteration or action video every time you visit a 3D printing site. Of course they’re fantastic, but it’s always fantastic to see a cool alternative as well. Few flying projects we’ve seen so far have been more impressive than the 3D printed, fully functional and very cool plane series (with a wingspan up to an impressive 2 meters) developed by Cults3D user Michael Christou, which is all the more special because he is actually a pensioner.
Christou – who might be better known under his internet handle Wersy – must surely be living the making dream. Working as a construction engineer for powerplants for most of his live, design and making has always been his dream, and with the help of this German makerspace, he has been able devote his retirement entirely to 3D printing and designing. ‘Without the endless patiently help of their members I would still be unable to print even a cube,’ he says. ‘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.’ But aren’t we all just as old as we feel? And in that respect, Christou is an up-and-coming designer. Having always loved planes, he began looking into 3D printing options for radio controlled planes in 2014. This has since grown out into a series of fantastic and very inspiring 3D printed planes, the largest of which has a wingspan of up to 2 meters – while still being functional. That, for as far as we know, makes this one of the most biggest and certainly the most impressive 3D printed planes in existence.
But this wasn’t an easy project to work on. ‘My intention was to design a plane up to 3 m wingspan without strengthening by carbon tubes - that means 100% printed,’ Christou explains. But this design caused all sorts of problems, so he initially had to stop well short of the 3 meters, creating a cool airplance he named the Red Duck. ‘But I had to stop at 1.35 m because the wing reached already a weight of almost 1,1 kg. My small motor which I used already on my sail plane wouldn't last for much more weight,’ the inspiring German maker says.
However, the Red Duck itself is also fun and much more practical. ‘I thought a flying wing would make less problems to get the CG forwards, because of the short tail. But again I got the same trouble. The big mass of the wing pushed the CG backwards, so I was forced to add a spacer on front. This makes the plane looks a bit like a duck,’ he says, explaining the name. Taking 1.4 kilograms of PLA and 116 hours to fully 3D print, this cool flying wing is almost completely 3D printed aside from the obvious electronics (the motor is a Robbe Roxxy BL Outrunner 2834-08) and some tape that is optionally used to extend and fasten the wings.
What’s more, as you can see for yourself in the clip above, the Red Duck performed very well indeed. For this flight, Christou had invited a very experienced Lufthansa pilot Uli Richter to fly it around. ‘He had absolutely no problems and showed us immediately a fully acrobatic flight show,’ the maker says. If you’re interested in recreating this cool flying wing for yourself, you can find the downloadable files here.
This impressive Red Duck was followed by an even more impressive motorized sailplane, which was intended to be far more flexible in the skies. Also almost fully 3D printed, this plane gave Christou some more troubles than the Duck, but is perhaps more challenging and fun to recreate for yourself. As he explained, the first test flight wasn’t exactly a success. ‘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,’ he says. ‘Also the fuselage broke at the connection between the fourth and fifth section due to the hard crash. This part is hollow printed only with one perimeter but strong enough to survive normal landings.’
This frustrated the designs somewhat, as it was 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,’ he says. Contacting the experienced pilots of Aeroclub Niedereschbach ACNA in Frankfurt, they helped him redesign the whole fuselage and the tail. Centering problems also required redesigning the nose, but the time-consuming project was well worth the result.
The final plane became pretty heavy at 960 grams, but definitely flies as you can see for yourself in the clip above. If you’re willing to try it for yourself, you can find all the downloadable files here. However, as just about every part needs to be 3D printed with different settings and the assembly is a bit tricky, keep a close eye on the tutorial by Christou that is also included.
While extremely cool, the pièce de résistance of the pensioner’s work must surely be the amazing Red Swan, a follow-up of the Red Duck. ‘The ugly duckling became a swan. So the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen came true,’ he says. While not exactly looking like a swan, the Red Swan is the follow up of the duck predecessor, so the name is artistically justified. In contrast to its predecessor, the Swan features a truly amazing wingspan of almost 2 meters, making this one of the largest 3D printed plane we know of.
What’s more, it reportedly flies very well. ‘It has this wonderful flight characteristic. It can glide like a sailplane. The motor was often not in use as you can see on this video, which was taken with a mounted mini cam,’ he says. This extra length did add a lot more weight to the wing (about 400 grams) while also requiring a much longer nose. In other ways, however, it is largely an enhanced version of the Red Duck, but much, much more impressive. Taking 1.8 kilograms of PLA and 155 hours of print time, this could be the most impressive 3D printed creation we’ve seen so far. I know what I want to do when I retire.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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Wersy wrote at 9/3/2015 1:36:07 PM:
Not Wersey but Wersy ;-)
SF wrote at 9/2/2015 8:28:42 AM:
not "most biggest" but the "biggest"
H. Scholten wrote at 9/2/2015 7:23:11 AM:
>>which is all the more special because he is actually a pensioner<< What makes you think only young people can understand 3D printing???