Optima clone kit?

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Oct 10, 2017
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Like many of you I really like the looks of the old Estes Optima/Shadow rocket but unfortunately I never got to build one. Is a scratch build my only option at this point or do any 29mm/38mm clone kits exist? Is that even possible due to copyright issues?
How did it take me this long?

Cloning is really the only current option. Exact clones are hard, the nose is difficult to find. Semeoc used to sell laser cut balsa sheets, I can get you scans and measurements of them.

Ive had good times cloning them out of 2.6” bluetube, plywood and a LOC nosecone. Including unbuilt kits, I think I’ve got around a dozen of the things :) My most frequent flier is my 29mm bluetube. If I could only have one, it’d be a 38mm. I’m looking into flying them a lot higher with a chute release next year, they fall pretty flat with a balled up chute. Don’t ask.

eBay has been pretty dry lately. However, Estes just reintroduced the super big Bertha. This gives me hope they may consider a relaunch/updated Optima.

Mark at stickershock has done the decals for me a few times. I need to order another round of them soon... and scale one for 54mm tube ;)
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Some nice examples here from Roger and David. If I was going to do a straight (not beefed up) clone of this puppy I would start with an Estes Executioner. That'll get me a PNC-80K, two 14 inch sections of BT-80 (1 slotted for three fins), coupler, motor tube and centering rings. Just add another 11 inch section of BT-80 with a coupler and you're off to the races. :) Instructions are a click away:




Okay, scratch build (sort of) it is! I like Roger's idea of using Aerotech parts with plywood fins. Actually, I have plenty of BT-80 sized body tubes (Aerotech, LOC, PML etc.) laying around so that part is easy. I probably have a suitable nosecone as well so that just leaves the fins. I would prefer to have the fins commercially fabricated. Can anyone recommend a vendor to make a set of Optima style fins with TTW tabs to a 29mm motor mount?
Thank you David. I don't know if it's the coolest anyone has ever made, it only has a 38mm motor mount. But it's definitely the coolest I've ever made.

the more time I spend flying, the more I’m finding I really like 38s
Is that even possible due to copyright issues?

If they do hold a patent active still, They can't sue if the dimensions and manufacturing methods are changed, because a patent applies to a specific manufactured item and not a blanket coverage of an idea. The scariest stuff I saw on factory tours wasn't even patented technology, Cummins had these variable geometry turbocharger blades with a saw tooth front leading edge and Smith and Nephew a medical manufacturer had ceramic hershy kiss drops in a vat. When they asked us engineering students for questions I brought up those items I saw on the factory floor and both times the answer was proprietary! LOL. They don't hold patents on stuff they don't want other companies to even know exists!!! Intellectual property as a trade secret almost. The workers will sign NDAs and never speak of it. It's like unless you saw the item in person you don't know its even manufactured.

I've made nosecones with a Von Karman equation for university projects. I could patent the nosecone I made if I had that kind of cash to piss, don't see the point in patents for some items, but it wouldn't apply if someone resized it or changed any internal dimensions for example. And I don't know if Von Karman is around still, but he hasn't sued a bunch of people for using his math equation to make cones since.
Parents and copyrights are two very different things. Patents protect inventions (and trade or service marks). Copyrights protect artistic expression.

Estes has never expressed any concern about people scratch-building clones. Of course, you do need to ask Estes for permission if you were to produce a clone kit. So far, though, I haven't heard of them saying "no" to anyone cloning an out of production rocket.
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Typical patents are for ideas and concepts, though there are different classes of patent that covers industrial design, brand identity, etc. Patents can very well be broad-based, and cover a wide range of things. It all depends on the type and the claims stated. In engineering, patents very much cover an idea - and do so in blanket fashion, within the scope of how they were worded. Others (usually newer) patents cover a very narrow distinction, typically in ways that set it apart from older designs or competitors' products. If you have free time, study the case of Ford vs. Seldon, or more interesting, Curtiss vs the Wrights. Those are both cases that the patent claims were so broad based, that any sort of vaguely similar idea was (initially) considered infringement. In this sort of patent, you would not be issued a patent for a nose cone that you designed, unless you could demonstrate that it was functionally novel or unique and did something no nose cone before had. Or you applied it to a different type of product that it was never used before.

Patents that deal with form of design, styling, logos, etc, are specific to the actual form and shape of the item in question. This is where proportions and appearance matter. This is why Jeep sued Hummer a few years back for the 7-slot grill, and why automakers all around the world struggle with designs copied by Chinese manufacturers. So, there a lot of different ways patent questions can be considered. Such blanket statements alone aren't that simple.

What I have been told regarding cloning rocket designs is as Roger indicated. OOP designs can be copied by other manufacturers for sale. However, individuals can clone all they want for personal consumption. Current production designs cannot be copied for sale by other manufacturers.
Semroc produced the fins and a BT50 sized clone. Not sure if it was with permission, but they included the Estes kit number on the fins
...However, Estes just reintroduced the super big Bertha. This gives me hope they may consider a relaunch/updated Optima...

This gives me hope as well. In fact, I've been pondering this all day. Why not try it with the same slight modifications that they did with the Super Big Bertha?

Take an Executioner, 29mm mount, do something with the fins...

JumpJet, please consider. This would be an excellent fit for the current Pro Series II line, IMHO.
How did it take me this long?

Cloning is really the only current option. Exact clones are hard, the nose is difficult to find.

Current Estes rockets with the Optima's nose cone: (1951) Executioner, and (3228) Semi-Scale V2. I would start with the Executioner and add tubes.
I'm a big fan of both 38s and 29s.

I've got a soft spot for AT 29's. I wound up building a pile of kits for 54mm motors. And they're fun, don't get me wrong... but I've found it easier (and cheaper) to fly a slightly smaller kit on slightly bigger 38's than to go into the 54 realm. I'm sure I'll get back into all those kits some day...but right now all my plans are for 38mm motors, and doing my L3 and a couple EX 76's. My L1 Optima is a 29....so I'll always be flying those in there somewhere too.
In this sort of patent, you would not be issued a patent for a nose cone that you designed, unless you could demonstrate that it was functionally novel or unique and did something no nose cone before had. Or you applied it to a different type of product that it was never used before.

No I was considering a utility patent protecting the new functionally novel feature for it's specific dimensions in a method never used before. Patents protect the inventions another poster said. You can't literally blanket protect the idea itself only from someone directly copying you. They can still freely achieve the same end goal functions using different dimensions, mechanisms, or even materials and manufacturing processes without infringing you. The page on utility patents specifically states you can not patent the idea. I'm not talking about a bullsh*t artsy patent. I'm talking about the device has exact specifications, sub components, methods of manufacture, and actual functions with supporting here it is, here's the schematics, and I can't change the device after the patent is submitted. So that is the problem see.... It protects that specific device with specific dimensions. You have to have the device produced. Not submit and idea type deal, the physical thing is actually in their hands. The designer would truly have to patent multiple variations of a single design to fully protect the various damned ways one could actually produce variations of it doing the same functions with different routes to achieve those functions if you truly wanted the whole freaking idea patented to yourself.

Glock does not own a patent on the Subcompact 9mm Striker fired personal defense handgun. They own patents on Glock 19 and 26 etc. And likely patents for their specific trigger mechanism, their barrel lengths, their slide dimensions, their grip designs, and etc. You can go order an HK VP9 or VP9SK and achieve same result. The designs disassembly differently. The geometries are different. The magazine stops are different. The springs are different lengths. The operating system concepts are the same, the ways to achieve that goal are differently sized components internally that do not interchange. The surface finishes are different coatings. The barrel lengths are different. The sight options are different. The trigger resets and pull weights are different dimensionally. The magazine release buttons vary. Not one single piece interchanges except the ammunition caliber and cartridge 9 x19mm. They both use polymer frames. I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop. If you really want laugh look at VP9 vs Walther PPQ. VERY similar. But different. The parts functionally do similar tasks with very different design dimensions in about every freaking component manufactured, lol. Then there are Ruger, Colt, Sig, Remington, Berretta, and dozens more manufacturers not infringing on each other yet still punching holes in paper with similar sized handguns.

Then for ultimate patent idea protection TROLL expired moment... Look what happened to poor colt M-16 lower, ala AR-15 lower out of patent protection virtually copied by entire industries and dozens upon dozens of custom shops and name brand manufacturers... Dimensionally copied. That's the irony of ARs. Engineered to be interchangeable parts from many different manufacturers. There's dozens of aftermarket components that literally bolt or screw onto it. And now you can print or mill your own lower and the media will literally scream liberally and its completely legal if you don't resell it. Literally the only gun design designed so the user can change its configuration for many tasks. Sorry I probably de-railed the entire freaking thread now, still learning about patents and it blows my mind how much companies get away with.
Literally what prevents someone from copying an Optima? They go in changing the root dimensions, tip cord, fin span, sweep angle, tube sizes, bulkhead diameters, nosecone length and radius, materials, manufacturing processes, and then said to the patent attorney here's a new device. You'd have a Optima truly in a utility patent, and then you'd have a similar look alike rocket that well is dimensionally different from an Optima. Perhaps a smart attorney would get you on a technicality with the more vague artsy patents for styling, but I highly doubt that unless dumped a ton into its patent protections and holds many patents of various meanings for their invention. Both go vertical.
First, I don’t believe the design is patented. I’d guess it’s copyrighted which is a totally different thing. Someone mentioned this above and you’re just steamrolling with your rant.

Secondly, whatever legal protections there are, it’s pretty rare in this hobby to see anyone act legally. It costs way too much compared to possible profits, usually. You’re much more likely to suffer customer backlash. I can think of a few outstanding design lifts of this nature.

So to anwser his actual question- sure, someone could clone it as a kit with permission, but no one is. Without permission it’s possible, and likely you’d never see more than a CnD letter, if that. There’s not enough money in rocketry to pay lawyers.
Yeah and I agree with you about there's not enough money in rocketry to support the patent costs. Morally I wouldn't want to directly copy someone else's design then resell, it's better to have fun in an original design of own. I don't blame anyone for wanting to copy a old time kit no patents involved or whatnot and clone it though for personal hobby uses especially with newer materials out there today. Collector prices are unreal and over-inflated while scratch building is relatively cheap.

There's dozens of design variations made to Burt Rutan's Long Ez by a bunch of airplane scratch build nerds. And that company Rutan Aircraft Factory is long gone shell of what was. People were attracted to the style of design and the community of home built aircraft dorks kept modifying it for performance gains at reno races etc. Literally nothing matched the economy and cruise performance on a smaller motor and it was Styrofoam with composite layers back in 80's.
Xometry and StrataSys Direct Manufacturing were very experienced and helpful contractors for component manufacturing in 3D print SLS processes and also with CNC 5 axis mills if anyone needs more capabilities than an average machine shop could do on standard 3 axi machines. I've used those two vendors on scratchbuilds and they constantly communicate until part is shipped, very efficient. The local machinists would easily beat the contractors on first part price for CNC production objects. It's cheaper than buying the machinery to do the capabilities you need if someone locally can't do it.