Small hobby planes and lightweight plastic parts go hand in hand, and a 3D printing pen makes plastic lightweight. stuff without the overhead of CAD work and with a 3D printer. So could a 3D pen create useful plastic parts for small quadcopters? [Michael Niggel] decided to find out by building the parts of his drone with a 3D pen loaded with ABS plastic. For the most part, he found that the created objects could be politely said to look as if they had been sketched by a small child, but that was not all he learned.
He found that, in general, creating an object was more difficult than the marketing materials implied. As soon as the filament leaves the pen nozzle, the thin line of molten plastic quickly cools down and does two things: it tends to curl up and it loses its desire to stick to things. [Michael] he found the whole thing to work much less like ‘drawing in air’ and more like icing or caulking pipes.
Nevertheless, [Michael] sought to find out if a 3D pen could be used to make quick and dirty parts of any use. He created two antenna mounts and a micro quad frame. All three are chaotic disasters, but one antenna mount was perfectly repairable. In fact, the 3D pen was able to create an oddly shaped part that would have been a CAD nightmare. The other part of the antenna worked, but it didn’t do anything that a zip tie wouldn’t have done better. The rapid cooling of the 3D pen plastic has an advantage: the extrusions do not “fall off” like a drop of hot glue does before hardening.
For now, [Michael] he agreed that the best way to create a plastic part of any complexity seemed to be to draw flat sections, build them in layers, then use the pen to weld the pieces together and add volume. The micro quad frame he made this way doesn’t look any better than the other attempts, but he held the parts correctly. Unfortunately, he would not fly. Once the motors fired, the arms would twist and the flight controller couldn’t compensate for the motors not staying straight. This could probably be beaten, but while the end result was dirty, it certainly wasn’t quick. The 3D pen niche seems to be restricted to simple, stress-free parts that cannot be seen in a mirror.
If you have a 3D pen, we remind you of this mini coil design whose pieces are welded together with the pen itself. For larger jobs, a high temperature hot glue gun can be used to dispense PLA.