It was only a matter of time before the blossoming romance between drones and 3D printers developed into a beautiful technological union. With both technologies becoming ever more advanced, the scale and scope of this amalgamation is truly exciting and we’re here to show you just how great it can be.
As any newly fledged drone owner will tell you, crashes of a spectacular kind are inevitable. Those initial weeks of owning a drone not only make you appreciate how many obstacles there are in what you thought was a very large room, but they also help redefine your idea on what a ‘bit of a breeze’ actually is. Thankfully, most drones are built to be robust, but even so it’s unlikely you will escape your maiden voyages without some kind of repair being needed.
This is where your life saver of a 3D printer can come in.
Whilst the majority of the electrical elements cannot be printed, the parts that often suffer after a crash - propellers, frames and the landing gear for example - can. So rather than wait for new parts to be shipped over to you, you can simply create your own. It can also end up being far cheaper than constantly handing over money each time your flight ends with a less than graceful landing.
Better still, once you’ve become a little more adept at printing drone parts, you can even begin to make some nifty modifications. It takes a bit of time and a lot of practice sure, but there is a wealth of free designs out there on the internet to try your hand at before going completely solo. You’ll also find plenty of tutorials and FAQs on various forums, so give it a go and see what you come up with.
The Union Between Drone and Printer
The Millennium Falcon
Let’s face it, this was an inevitable outcome of these two technologies meeting. This Millennium Falcon drone is pretty simple to create yourself, all you need is a standard drone and then fit the lightweight frame on over the top. We suggest flying it with the Star wars soundtrack on in the background for optimum effect.
This cute little guy is being applauded as the smallest drone ever. As you can see, it fits easily in the hand and weighs only 2.5 grams. The frame is 3D printed and being so small, is very cheap. Designed and built by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering, Piccolissimo has the potential to become part of a drone swarm, able to aid in anything from search and rescue missions to light shows.
This one is far from simple and is certainly not for the hobbyist. KAYRYS is designed to be used in emergency situations and especially in those situations that are particularly high risk for humans to enter, such as clearing land mines. Astonishingly, 60% of this drone was 3D printed, making for a lightweight yet extremely tough drone. It took four separate printers to create all the parts and these were finished in fewer than 20 days, neat huh?
The future of 3D Printers and Drones
It’s clear that we’re already living in exciting times, with swarms of 3D printed drones soon to be soaring in our skies and emergency drones taking over high risk situations. This progression from pure hobby to a relied-upon technology has been pretty fast and we can only expect more of the same for the future.
The cool stuff aside, there is a wealth of questions raised by the amalgamation of these two technologies, especially in terms of security. It was only a few months ago that research conducted by three universities revealed that not only was it possible to hack a 3D printer (albeit vicariously), but also to sabotage the creation enough to cause the drone to crash shortly after take-off.
In small scale situations, this isn’t a major foul, but if you apply it to big league, commercial settings, then the problems become obvious. With that in mind we expect to see a greater emphasis on security as these two technologies become ever more integrated into military settings which, rightly or wrongly, is inevitable.
As for us small fry who just enjoy the pure delights of printing drones that resemble beloved Star Wars space vehicles, we expect to see far more brainchilds come from these two fields and frankly, we can’t wait.