A Guide to 3D Printing Model Aircraft Wings

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The exact shape of a wing’s airfoil has a dramatic effect on an aircraft’s performance and efficiency and will be selected based on the intended flight envelope. If you’re going beyond foam board fenders, 3D printing is a great way to create an accurate airfoil, and [Tom Stanton] provides us with a great guide to modeling wing sections for easy printing.

[Tom] used the process demonstrated in the video after the break to create the wing for his latest VTOL RC plane. It was printed with lightweight PLA, which can ooze a lot when it stops extruding. To work around this, he designed the wings and their internal ribs to be printed as a single, continuously extruded line.

He wanted a wing that would allow a smooth transition from hover to forward flight, and used the Airfoil Tools website to find and download the appropriate wing profile. After importing the profile into Fusion 360, he created internal ribs in a diagonal grid pattern, with lightening holes running the length of the wing. A cylinder runs the length of the wing core to fit a carbon fiber wing spar. The ribs are first treated as a separate body in CAD and divided into four quadrants. When these quadrants combine with the outer shell, this allows the slicer to treat the entire print as one continuous outer perimeter line using “vase mode”.

These steps may seem simple, but it took about 3 weeks of experimentation to find a process that works. It is primarily intended for straight wings with a continuous profile, but it should also be adaptable to tapered/swept wings. A well-designed airframe is essential for pushing aircraft to the limit of efficiency, like a solar-powered aircraft for flying at night.

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