FPV Drone Enthusiasts’ Guide to 3D Printing: How to Get Started and Create Custom Parts

How To Build Fpv Drone 2023 3d Printed Parts

 

3D printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for FPV drone enthusiasts, allowing them to experiment, customize, and create like never before. In this tutorial, we will explore the basics of 3D printing, the equipment needed, and how to get started with creating your own custom parts and accessories for your drone.

The Benefits of 3D Printing

3D printing has revolutionized the way we create and innovate in various industries, and the world of FPV drone flying is no exception. With the ability to print custom parts and accessories at home, 3D printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for drone enthusiasts, from creating unique frames parts to custom mounts and quick prototypes.

One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing for FPV drone enthusiasts is the ability to quickly and easily replace broken parts or make modifications to existing designs. With 3D printing, you can create parts that are not readily available or that are too expensive to purchase, allowing you to experiment and customize your drone in ways that were once impossible.

Additionally, 3D printing allows for greater creativity and customization. You can create unique designs and shapes that are not possible with traditional manufacturing methods, and even print in a variety of materials to suit your needs.

Examples of 3D Printed Drone Parts

GoPro Mount – it holds the camera in place while provide some protection in crashes.

 

Video transmitter antenna holders – they holds the antenna in an optimal position while provide physical protection.

Walksnail Avatar Digital Hd Fpv System Air Unit Vtx Antenna Mount 3d Print Tpu Frame

 

FPV Camera mounts – these hold the camera in place on the drone and can be adjusted for different angles and positions.

Arm guards – protects the carbon fibre of the arms in crashes.

How To Build Fpv Drone 2023 Dji 3d Printed Parts Camera Capacitor Mount

 

Custom made radio grips.

 

Various custom 3D printed parts for fixed wing.

 

FPV Goggles screen protector printed in TPU.

 

My DIY FPV portable monitor – the case is 3D printed.

Software

3D modelling software is used to design drone parts that can be 3D printed. There are many different software options available, ranging from beginner-friendly to professional-level programs. Some popular options include Tinkercad, Fusion 360 and SolidWorks.

Beginners may find Tinkercad to be a good option for its ease of use and intuitive interface. More advanced users may prefer Fusion 360 and SolidWorks for their robust feature sets and advanced tools. Fusion 360 offers a free version for non-commercial use and it’s a great option to get started.

Once a model has been created, it can be exported as an STL file, which can then be imported into a slicing software to prepare it for 3D printing.

A slicing software takes your 3D design and “slices” it into layers, and creates a toolpath for your 3D printer to follow. The software allows you to customize print settings such as layer height, print speed, and infill density. Cura is one of the most popular slicing software options and it’s free.

You don’t have to create 3D models yourself, you can also download ready-made designs and import them into a slicing software. With slicing software, you can adjust print settings to achieve the best results for your specific 3D printer and the parts you’re printing.

How to Choose the Right 3D Printer

 

Types 3D Printer

FDM Printers

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers are the most common type of 3D printers. They work by melting a thermoplastic filament and extruding it through a nozzle, which moves on the X, Y, and Z axes to create the object layer by layer. The filament is fed from a spool through a tube and into the hotend, which heats the material to its melting point.

FDM printers are widely used for prototyping, product design, and hobbyist projects due to their affordability, ease of use, and versatility. They can print with a variety of materials, such as PLA, ABS, PETG, nylon, and more. The downside to FDM printing is that the layer lines are often visible, and the resolution is limited by the diameter of the nozzle.

SLA/SLS Printers

SLA (Stereolithography) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) are two types of 3D printers that use different processes from FDM.

SLA printers use a liquid resin that is cured by a UV laser to create the desired object. The printer starts by exposing a layer of resin to the laser, which solidifies the resin and creates a thin layer. This process is repeated for each layer until the object is complete. SLA printers can produce very fine details and smooth surfaces, but are typically more expensive and have a smaller build volume compared to FDM printers.

SLS printers use a powdered material, typically nylon, that is fused together using a laser. The printer spreads a layer of powder and the laser selectively melts the powder together to create the object. This process is repeated for each layer until the object is complete. SLS printers are capable of producing complex geometries and strong, durable parts, but are also more expensive than FDM printers.

Extruder Types

Bowden

A Bowden extruder has the motor located away from the hotend, and the filament is fed through a tube called a Bowden tube to the hotend. This setup reduces the weight on the print head, allowing it to move faster and more accurately. Bowden extruders are commonly found on delta printers and other high-speed machines.

Direct Drive

In a direct drive extruder, the motor is mounted directly above or beside the hotend, and the filament is fed directly into the hotend. This setup allows for more precise extrusion control and makes it easier to print with flexible filaments. Direct drive extruders are commonly found on desktop FDM printers.

While both types of extruders can be used for printing TPU or other flexible filament in general, direct drive extruders are generally recommended over Bowden extruders for best results. This is because direct drive extruders have the motor located near the hot end, which allows for more precise and controlled filament feeding, and less risk of filament slipping or buckling. In contrast, Bowden extruders have the motor located at a distance from the hot end, with the filament traveling through a tube before reaching the hot end. This can lead to more difficulty in controlling the flexible filament, and may require modifications to the extruder setup, such as a longer Bowden tube or a higher tension on the filament. Overall,

3D Printer Options

When selecting a printer, consider the build volume, resolution, and material compatibility. To give you some ideas, popular 3D printers among FPV pilots are the Creality Ender 3, Prusa i3 MK3, and the Anycubic Photon.

Here is the summary of my recommendations:

  • If you want a reliable machine on a budget -> Creality Ender 3 Series
  • If you want a quality smaller machine -> Artillery Genius
  • If you want a quality Larger machine -> Artillery Sidewinder X1
  • If you want to print tiny detailed parts or ornaments -> Creality LD-002R
  • If you want to learn on a tight budget -> Anet A8 Plus
Printer Build Volume Extruder Type Price ($) Voltage Silent Drivers
Ender 3 XS Pro 220x220x250 Bowden 279.99 24V Yes
Artillery Genius 220x220x250 Titan Direct Drive 299.99 24V Yes
Two Trees Sapphire Pro 235x235x235 BMG Dual Gear Bowden 369.99 24V Yes
Tenlog Hands 2 220x220x235 Direct Drive x2 379.99 12V Yes
Tevo Tarantula 235x235x250 Bowden 209.99 24v No
Anet A8 Plus 300x300x350 Direct Drive 259.99 12V No
Artillery Sidewinder X1 300x300x400 Titan Direct Drive 389 24V Yes
Creality CR10 300x300x400 Bowden 389.99 12v No
Creality CR10-S 500x500x500 Bowden 999 12v No
Creality LD-002r 119x65x160 LCD Resin 279 12v N/A

Creality Ender 3

 

We will start with probably one of the most well known printers out there, the Creality Ender 3. This one specifically is the Ender 3 XS Pro which can only be purchased from Banggood.

Pros:

  • Small form factor
  • Lots of online support and tutorials (Large User Base)
  • Good Value for money
  • Silent Steppers (with the XS Pro version)
  • 24V (with the XS Pro version)
  • Comes with glass bed (with the XS Pro version)

Cons:

  • Bowden Extruder
  • Some Tuning/Modifications may be required
  • Cooling Duct

Overall the Ender 3 is a solid printer with a good user base and it does this at a cheap price point. To shine, the Ender does need a few small upgrades, one of the more important being a fan duct as creality’s fan ducts are not very good.

Artillery Genius

 

Staying in the same form factor but going up the quality scale is the Artillery Genius. It is a little more pricey than the Ender 3 but it comes with a lot of very useful features and it doesn’t need DIY modifications to give excellent prints.

Pros:

  • Small Form Factor
  • AC Heated Bed
  • 24V
  • Silent Steppers
  • Touch Screen Interface
  • Titan DirectDrive Extruder
  • Direct Glass bed (no metal layer)
  • Nice Look
  • Roller bearings on spool holder
  • Filament run-out sensor
  • Very easy assembly

Cons:

  • Plastic Extruder lever can break over time
  • Ribbon cables can give trouble
  • Higher price point

The Genius is my go to printer for most jobs because it is refined and it just works. This does come at a cost though and you need to weigh up if the extra cost will pay off for you. My favourite thing about it is probably the direct drive extruder that makes printing TPU really straightforward. One thing to note is that Artillery printers come with a yellow oily residue on the bed and you need to wipe this off with IPA in order to get a good bed adhesion.

Anet A8 Plus

 

Now we are moving up into the next size class, the 300x300mm bed size, which matches the very popular CR-10.

The Anet A8 Plus DIY kit is probably the cheapest printer in this size class one would consider, not to be confused with the original Anet A8 which isn’t something I’d ever recommend for safety reasons.

Pros:

  • Direct drive extruder
  • Good fan duct
  • Large print volume
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Very in-depth build
  • Low quality components
  • Needs upgrades for extended use
  • No quiet steppers

The Anet A8 Plus DIY is a good place to start if you’re low on budget and want to learn the intricacies of a 3D printer. This printer comes about as disassembled as possible, and required being completely wired up from scratch. I even had to put the heatsinks on the stepper drivers!

If you want something that will last a long time without any changes you may need to reconsider though as I started having trouble after about 100hrs of print time with the moving assemblies, pulleys that aren’t round, linear rollers giving trouble etc. It all depends on what you want to gain from your first 3D printer.

Artillery Sidewinder X1 V4

 

The Artillery Sidewinder X1 V4 is the polar opposite of the Anet A8 Plus. It is the bigger, older brother of the Artillery Genius I showed earlier and is in a similar quality category. It shares many of the features of the Genius, like an AC heated bed, silent steppers, Titan Directdrive extruder etc.

Pros:

  • Small Form Factor
  • AC Heated Bed
  • 24V
  • Silent Steppers
  • Touch Screen Interface
  • Titan DirectDrive Extruder
  • Direct Glass bed (no metal layer)
  • Nice Look
  • Roller bearings on spool holder
  • Filament runout sensor
  • Very easy assembly
  • Big build volume (300x300x400)

Cons:

  • Plastic Extruder lever can break over time
  • Ribbon cables can give trouble
  • Higher price point

If you are looking for a CR-10 Sized printer that will treat you well over its life this is probably the best way to go.

This printer is tidy, reliable and fully featured. I would recommend you do a few modifications to the ribbon cable setup for strain relief and retention and maybe consider purchasing an aluminium extruder lever for when the plastic one gives way but with these you’ll have a near perfect printer.

Creality LD-002R

 

This is the Creality LD-002R and the Anycubic Wash and Cure Machine. I only recently dipped my toes in the Resin printing field and I am impressed by the quality.

After using FDM printers for a long time I am amazed to see a print where I need a magnifying glass to see the layer lines. But it does come at a cost, the resin is very brittle, and cannot be deformed like plastic. This means if you have a thin resin print and drop it or flex it it will likely break. Since the resin is UV cured, if a print is going to have lots of direct sun exposure you probably need to consider painting it.

Pros:

  • Amazing Quality detail
  • Small size
  • Completely quiet operation

Cons:

  • Resin Smell is strong
  • Small build volume
  • Results are brittle
  • Handling the resin is hard

If you are going to get into resin printing I definitely recommend a wash and cure unit as it makes it much safer and easier to do. This wash and cure machine by Anycubic is ideal and much cheaper and most other options.

You remove your prints from the resin printer and drop them straight into this basket and put it in your washing liquid, I recommend something alcohol based. Then you let it run for 5 minutes washing the prints. Then you remove them and put them on this acrylic bed and let it cure them for 5 minutes and your prints are good to go.

Without this I was trying to wash my prints with a paintbrush and it was very messy. Then I was leaving them in the sun for 2 days trying to get them cured but this didn’t work well, faded the colours and was uneven.

Prusa i3

This is also a very popular printer and is known for its quality and ease of use. This is also a good option but it’s starting to get a little outdated with some of the more recent features.

Materials for 3D Printing

There are several materials available for 3D printing drone parts. The most common ones are:

  1. TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) – A flexible and rubber-like material that is ideal for shock absorbers, motor mounts, and other components that require flexibility.
  2. PLA (Polylactic Acid) – It is probably the most common filament used in 3D printing as it’s biodegradable, easy to print and has a low melting point, but it is brittle and has low impact resistance.
  3. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – A strong, durable, and heat-resistant plastic. It has a higher melting point than PLA, but it is more challenging to print due to warping and requires a heated bed.
  4. PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) – A material that combines the strength and durability of ABS with the ease of printing of PLA. It has a high melting point and excellent layer adhesion.

Each material has its properties, advantages, and disadvantages. The choice of material depends on the specific application, design requirements, and personal preference. Personally, I use TPU and PETG 99% of the times.

How to Achieve Good Printing Results

Have the printer and slicing software settings dialled in makes a huge difference to the printing quality. Some key settings to adjust include layer height, infill density, and print speed. The ideal settings may vary depending on the complexity and size of the part, your printing environment and the material you use.

When printing with different materials, be sure to adjust the print temperature and bed temperature to match the recommended settings for that specific material. It is also important to properly level the bed to ensure a successful print.

Regular maintenance and calibration of your printer are also important for consistent and reliable printing.

3D Design Resources

There are many resources available for finding and sharing 3D printable FPV drone parts. Thingiverse, Yeggi and MyMiniFactory are some of the popular websites where you can find a wide variety of 3D printable drone parts. Additionally, some drone manufacturers and retailers offer 3D printable parts STL files on their websites

Mepsking FPV Forum, where you can learn everything about drone and flying skills. Check mepsking store if you want to buy drone parts.

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