Sep 23, 2016 | By Nick

KRAGA has released a 1.6m RC plane that you can put together at home with the most basic 3D printer and a simple kit.

Until now, RC planes were complex things that often took days to put together from lightweight balsa wood. Each plane could take many hours of arduous work putting together separate pieces of balsa. Plane building, even in kit form, was a skill in itself.

The KRAGA Kodo is an elegant looking skeleton plane made up of a series of parts that slot together with the aid of glue and carbon spars to form a serious plane much faster. It’s a lightweight structure, which is essential for the finished RC plane, it is stronger than balsa wood and it is also easy to repair.

It's a simple design that took a lot of work to create and essentially comprises of lattice wings that gain their structural rigidity from the shape and the carbon-fiber support rods that run down their length, a simple body that includes a motor and a tailfin. It looks more like a pared down glider than an actual plane, but it works well.

Of course, that lattice structure also saves on materials and keeps the 3D printing costs to the bare minimum. So it’s a great way for would-be enthusiasts to test the waters and see if the joys of remote-controlled flight do it for them.

Tomas Gallovic, the man behind KRAGA models, experimented with CNC production before 3D printing was even a thing. When additive manufacturing burst on to the scene, though, he realized that the 3D printer could offer a much lighter, cheaper and simpler plane.

The idea behind KRAGA models is simply: you can download the designs and print them on your home 3D printer. It’s a snap together and modular design that isn’t intimidating, so even novices 3D printers and RC enthusiasts can have their plane up and running within a few hours. (The carbon-fiber tubes and electric motor are not included in the kit). Once you have the basic kit then you can repair your plane again and again with the same plans.

That is manna from heaven for the RC enthusiasts that either wrap their plane in kid gloves and refuse to take risks or spend half their time in the workshop taking care of the latest crash damage from a mid-air collision or even a rough landing.

Gallovic didn’t just pen a design and get going, though, the development process has been long and arduous. He started with a simple wing from thingiverse and just couldn’t get it to work as he wanted. Either the wing deformed during the print process due to the material tension, or the surface was brittle and prone to cracks.

Both of these are devastating to an RC plane enthusiast as warped wings will mean the plane just does not fly straight and cracking means that the day can end at any moment.

After more than 30 variations, including a balsa kit, 3D printed ribs and even a molecular-style organic structure, he hit upon what he calls the KRAGA mesh. This was the optimum combination of lightweight, impact absorption and basic strength.

So the design of this plane might look simple, but there’s a lot of science and a touch of inspiration gone into the details. They included tuning the aerodynamics, which Gallovic studied and tuned with the help of an advanced telemetry kit.

That wing and tail fin kit might look simple, bit it’s anything but and once he had the right set-up he had to make it easy to print and replicate from the base parts. The plane has to have the right structure each and every time to make the most of KRAGA’s extensive research, so that then became an issue of how to print the separate parts.

It had to work with any standard 3D printer, which means working with a limited print bay and the basic design had to withstand the foibles of a variety of different 3D printer brands. This is precision kit, so that meant keeping the parts simple and slotting them together into solid foundations.

Of course this is just the start of the KRAGA adventure and now Gallovic wants to sell the kits and move on to the next plane. We’re curious to see what he comes up with next and it’s great to see that 3D printing has given a home hobbyist the means to create a commercial venture from a simple yet elegant idea.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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