This is an introduction to building your own 3d printed quadcopter drone. You will learn some basic concepts and we’ll introduce you to several step-by-step guides. It is a relatively easy endeavor cause the guides are so detailed.
Besides a 3D printer you will need some non-printed parts like the motors to power it, the batteries, some electronics, the sensors, the remote control unit and some basic skills to put everything together.
To put it more simply you can 3D print the frame, all the supporting and housing structures. Sometimes you can also print the propellers. Why is this important? Well… drones crash and brake. Specially if you are a novice pilot. This picture describes it perfectly:
The Anatomy of a Drone with things that usually brake. Image source: the poke.co.uk
With 3D printed parts you have an infinite and quick supply of spare parts that will make your pilot training and everyday mishaps easier to handle. Besides easier repair, making a DIY drone will give you much more knowledge about the inner workings and mechanics of your flying machine.
So what is a quadcopter? According to Wikipedia it is:
A quadcopter, also called a quadrotor helicopter or quadrotor, is a multi-rotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors. Quadcopters are classified as rotorcraft, as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft, because their lift is generated by a set of rotors (vertically oriented propellers). Unlike most helicopters, quadcopters use two sets of identical fixed pitched propellers; two clockwise (CW) and two counter-clockwise (CCW). These use variation of RPM to control lift and torque. Control of vehicle motion is achieved by altering the rotation rate of one or more rotor discs, thereby changing its torque load and thrust/lift characteristics.
Here you can see a more detailed overview of quadcopter parts of a commercially available top-tier drone used for aerial photography:
Almost everything that is not a motor or an electronic part can be 3D printed. The 3D printed version looks a little bit different:
Crossfire 3D printable quadcopter. Project link: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:32281
Besides the visual and aesthetic differences, the 3D printed version is easily upgraded, modular and user serviceable. In the following video Dennis Baldwin explains his 3D printed quadcopter in detail:
If you want to get into building one by yourself we have found several entry level projects. Here is a detailed construction guide for a 3D printed quadcopter:
… and here is a build guide for a different type of H-frame drone with a smaller frame:
If you want to 3D print the remote control unit housing and make your own joystick, you can check out this project:
If you are interested in more exotic designs and experiments you could 3D print a small UAV insectoid Ornithopter which flies by wing flapping and not propellers:
Detailed Ornithopter guide: http://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Printed-Ornithopter-Micro-UAV-Drone/
Do keep in mind that there are some laws regulating operation of UAVs and drones, consult your local regulations. Also stay safe! High flying objects with high speed propellers and inexperienced pilots can cause a lot of damage to people and property.
Youtube is filled with “how to fly a quadcopter” instructional videos, so that will be your starting point to figure out the basics. Once you get the basics you can do some amazing stuff like drone racing from point of view!