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2015/04/13

3D printed solar-powered toy airplane

When it comes to 3D printing fun electronic toys, quadcopters have been in charge for a very long time. It has reached a point where you can check out a new design, iteration of action video of a quadcopter every time you visit a 3D printing site. They’re a lot of fun to play with – but it’s also great to see designs that go in an entirely different direction, such as this cool solar powered toy airplane by Instructables user JoKu.

3D printing itself isn’t the most environmentally-friendly activity in the world, as it uses a lot of electricity and non-biodegradable plastics (when using ABS anyway). Therefore it’s great to see a toy that literally cannot do anything without solar power. While a fairly straight forward airplane, it features two solar cells on its wings, meaning the sun will need to shine to take this baby out for a spin. That isn’t such a huge disability when you think about it – after all, why fly a plane around when it’s raining?

As its designer JoKu explained, those solar cells are what spurred the entire project. ‘There are a lot of planes which you can find on platforms for 3D printing, but I wanted to create something different, more challenging. The idea was to combine a 3D printing with a solar module to energize an engine for the propeller,’ he writes. In fact, this is the first real 3D printing project JoKu has worked on, who learned to use professional modeling software Creo Parametric especially for this project.

Fortunately, you can relatively easily recreate it at home as JoKu has graciously shared all stl files onInstructables here. Most of it is fairly straightforward – just download the four files and 3D print them in whatever colors you prefer (or have laying around). Aside from that, you’ll need to get your hands on a pair of rubber wheels (a pair from a Lego kit were used in this project), 2 Solar modules SM150 (such as these) one solar engine or micro motor and that’s all.

Assembly itself is fairly straightforward, as the four different components slide together easily. 'Be careful with the pressure in moving the items together. According to the quality of the printer, it could be possible that you have to file a little bit at the wings,’ JoKu adds. The only challenging part is the soldering of the wires to connect the solar panels to the engine: ‘After soldering some thin wire at the poles of the solar cells, direct the wires through the tiny holes of the wing and fix the solar cells directly with tape,’ he writes. ‘After that the wires has to go into the corpus in the small holes. It's a little bit fiddling to pull the wires out of the pilot area.’ If you have a bit of soldering experience, this shouldn’t be too difficult to complete. Afterwards, it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on the weather report! 

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