Aug 17, 2015 | By Simon

Although it’s taken a couple of years, there are now hundreds of open source product designs that can be easily downloaded, modified and ultimately, fabricated on a 3D printer thanks to a new generation of open source-friendly designers.  

Within the past few months alone, we’ve seen everything from an open source telescope - such as the Ultrascope from the Open Space Agency - to an open source artificial intelligence platform, such as the Mycroft, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter to help raise awareness of the platform.  Now, those with a 3D printer can create their very own open source kite design to enjoy over the last month of Summer with OpenKite.

After starting with a project brief that requested designing “a product for play”, OpenKite creator and Royal College of Art Masters Candidate Sehun Oh found herself fascinated by Little Shining Man, a cube-shaped kite that consisted of hundreds of tetrahedral cells from designers Heather & Ivan Morrison.

Although the kite design was previously invented by Alexander Graham Bell - who also invented the telephone - as a form of airplane, the Morrisons “ranslated Bell's invention into a flying sculpture,” and Oh decided to “explore this intriguing architectural structure.”

The resulting kite design, which was born out of countless nights building prototypes out of drinking straws and tissue papers, is based off of a simplified building system that consists of several 3D printed components of varying shapes and sizes.  

So far, Oh has made 10 different versions of the tetrahedral kites and is following a “make-test-improve” process with each iteration to better understand the relationships between strength, weight, size and flying ability in an effort to better optimize the final design.  In doing so, he also released her work to date under the OpenKite open source kite building platform for interested users to 3D print their own components and assemble their own tetrahedral kites.     


“People can download the component data for free from my homepage, 3D print them and build their own kite,” explains Oh.   

Additionally, Oh notes that the original sources of her inspiration - both the original tetrahedral kite from Alexander Graham Bell as well as Little Shining Man from the Morrisons - were designed for airplane development and sculpture, not for personal kiting.  In contrast, Oh has optimized the design and its elements to make it more user friendly for for those who want to travel and play with the kite.  

“I think I (effectively)  translated this tetrahedral flying structure into a product for play,” adds Oh.  

“I tried to simplify the making process by designing specific components. Collapsibility is another major factor that makes it accessible by people. People can build it at home, unfold and bring to the flying location, fold it for kiting and then they can unfold it again to return home and store it under their beds.”

In total, the supplied STL files include for the project include four pairs of Wing components, four gap filler rings and two quick tying plugs - all of which can be printed in multiples to expand the kite’s size and design.  Additionally, drinking straws, ripstop nylon fabric, fishing line, aluminum wire and super glue are needed for completing the final kite assembly.

Although Oh printed her kits with an Ultimaker 2 3D printer, other 3D printers should work just fine, too - however Oh mentions that ABS material is recommended over PLA due to PLA’s brittle material properties considering the rigid (crash) conditions.  

For those looking for eye-grabbing kite to take with them for one of their last beach trips of the summer, it’s hard to disagree that the OpenKite is among one of the best options that’s also worthy of striking up more than a few conversations about what’s possible with today’s 3D printing technologies.  

To download the STL files, head over to Oh's OpenKite website.    


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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