Protect Your Drones: Choose the Right Materials for 3D Printing

From planes, trains, and automobiles to quadcopters, hexacopters, and octocopters (to super stealth military aircraft) and beyond, the human fascination with flight from Earth continues, and passionately so.

Aerospace “Engineers” have been around forever

Although there is certainly plenty to keep people busy and firmly tethered to the ground, historically the temptation and curiosity have always been too great. Humans have gone to wild extremes trying to simulate flight throughout time, from donning home-made wings to eventually constructing an ongoing evolution of kites, hot-air balloons, gliders, and eventually—an entire industry centered around aircraft.

Drone technology: The benefits have barely been touched on yet

Drones continue to grow in popularity on the corporate and hobbyist level, presenting a unique trend. While human beings are responsible for controlling drones, they are not actually flying in them—thus the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) moniker. This doesn’t mean there aren’t safety concerns though, especially as traffic in the skies increases and drones—although now allowed to fly in daylight hours while in the sight of the operator—are fairly unregulated and can do plenty of damage if they hit a plane or interrupt airport operations. The vast benefits in using these smaller aircraft are impossible to deny though. While there are numerous, topical pluses like being able to send retail deliveries to thrilled customers within minutes, drones also offer enormous advantages in times of disaster since they can fly into places that may be difficult to get to or would be potentially unsafe for humans. Drones are also programmed to be adept at collecting aerial data, performing surveys and inspections related to infrastructure, real estate—and flying into sites well-known for hazards, like oil fields.

Drones can be vulnerable

As any pilot will tell you, it’s not the flight that’s dangerous, it’s the crashing . In relation to drones, luckily this means human lives aren’t at stake (assuming UAVs aren’t interfering with other flights), but no one likes to see their technology smashed up either. Advanced technology requires advanced materials and in the case of a drone, prototyping is critical to avoid as many “crash and burn” scenarios as possible while navigating through the elements.

While there are obvious parts that can’t be 3D printed—such
as complex electronics—housing accessories can be fabricated—along with making
everything from propellers to landing gear, and a long list of other parts and

Shapeways offers a variety of materials and finishes

3D printed drone parts in various materials.

  Here are some of the materials Shapeways commonly offers for 3D printing drones:

Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] – It’s hard to imagine a material more aptly named, as Nylon 12...