Thing of the Week: Flying Machines

Today’s Thing of the Week was inspired by this Japanese 3D printed ornithopter:

Not only does the page documenting the project not translate to English well, but there are no files to download in order to print your own. So my first thought: to Thingiverse! Sure enough, there are indeed two ornithopters free to download. If you’re unfamiliar with ornithopters, they’re flying machines based on the flight of birds and insects, that is, flapping wings.

Ornithopter Frame (Rubber Band Powered) by Bioluminescence

Ornithopter Frame

I’ll first point out that this is a work in progress; it operates, but doesn’t fly. It’s pretty easy to see why, though. The frame is not only too thick, but it’s also printed as solid, so it’s quite heavy. Otherwise, the design isn’t very far off from functional; a rubber band is wound up, providing the energy to flap the wings through the crank mechanism. With some weight reduction this should fly just fine.

Remote Control Ornithopter by aslobodn

remote control ornithopter

This one works, and you can see that here. Instead of being powered by a rubber band, this one has an electric motor. In fact, it’s a rebuilt version of something like this RC bird. The frame is what’s printed, and this allows the weight to be adjusted for different flight styles. Since this one requires already having an RC bird, and the rubber band one doesn’t actually fly, here are some printable flying things that DO fly right out of the printer:

Pull String Helicopter by 271828

pull string helicopter

I know I said they’d fly right out of the printer, but you’ll just need a bit of sturdy string and a rubber band to get this one flying, though technically the rubber band isn’t necessary, as it only serves to automatically spool the string back up, which can be done manually too. Since pulling the string puts some torque on the device, ABS is probably the most appropriate material to print this in, but users have had success with PLA after some infill tweaking.

Boomerang by schm4704


It’s a boomerang. You throw it, it comes back.

Modular Model Rocket by Landru

modular model rocket

If you’ve never launched a model rocket, you really are missing out. Just add an engine and a parachute and this is ready for liftoff.

Bukobot Fly – 1 piece printable glider that flies! by deezmaker

bukobot fly

The inventor of the Bukobot, Diego Porqueras, printed this single-piece glider to test thin printing, specifically 0.1mm. It’s so thin, it’s easy to see through. And for being so thin and PLA, it’s surprisingly sturdy. Check out Diego tossing it around: