With the advent of 3D printing technology and home printers becoming more and more affordable, drones are just the next hot item to join the 3D printing craze. You can print almost an entire drone from scratch, needing few additional electronic components; all you need to do is download a template or create your own, feed it into the machine, and watch your drone parts grow. Even the military is looking to 3D print drones – but why would you want to?
First, What Is a 3D Printer?
3D printers aren’t quite printers the way you think of them, even if they use the same principles as an inkjet printer. An inkjet printer layers ink from a cartridge onto paper at various quantities and depths to create an image in grayscale or color, mixing quantities and density to achieve various hues of color or tints of gray.
A 3D printer uses fill matter – which can be plastic, resin, metal, nylon, glass, or many other substances – to extrude onto a surface in layers. Rather than creating a 2D image, the 3D printer layers over and over again to build a three-dimensional object according to designs and blueprints programmed into the device. Look at it as “painting” a three-dimensional object onto thin air, one layer at a time. Some 3D printers in the medical industry can even use organic matter to create 3D-printed, functioning organs many have proposed for use in organ transplant and surgery.
So a 3D Printer Can Print a Complete Item of Anything I Want?
Sometimes, but not always. It depends on the complexity of the item and whether it requires metal or electronic parts. For example, if you wanted to print a plastic mug, you could print that all in one piece, even with raised designs on it. However, if you wanted to print something more complex like a microwave, you might have a bit more trouble.
You could print many of the components, but you would have to assemble them yourself – and certain parts, like internal bulbs and heating elements, might have to be purchased separately and installed. Some high-end 3D printers are capable of printing metal components that can be used in electronics, and even printing circuit boards – but those might not be commercially accessible to the casual user.
Okay, So What Is a Drone?
A drone is anything that can qualify as an aircraft and be piloted remotely without a pilot actually occupying the vehicle. While you may often think of drones as military strike aircraft, in truth, even your old-school RC helicopters qualified as drone vehicles long before we were calling them that.
Personal use drones now tend to be quadcopters – light frameworks in a square or rectangular design that lift themselves on four propellers. Many have experimented with alternate drone designs, though, with as few as two or as many as eight propellers.
Reasons for 3D Printing a Drone
Here are just a few reasons for why you’d want to 3D print your own drone:
How to 3D Print a Drone
3D printing a drone is surprisingly easy – as we’ve made clear already. To do it, you just need to:
A Few Words of Caution
Many areas have very restrictive laws regarding drone use, particularly in residential neighborhoods. Because drones are so new and have yet to receive as much attention as they potentially could regarding regulations and standards, many municipalities choose to ban them altogether for safety reasons until such point when appropriate time can be spent deciding on necessary laws governing drone use. Be aware of the drone laws and regulations in your area, before you find your drone confiscated and the police at your door.