What Do You Think About 3D Printing

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ghostfather

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I've had a 3D printer for years, and have printed nose cones and fins, and even a whole rocket (I'll get back to that in a minute).

The art is knowing when you can print structural things, and when you need to combine them with other materials.

For a small rocket staying subsonic, I have no problems printing nose cones as they don't need to be especially strong. The nose cone and fins on the ACME rocket with the coyote in my avatar is an example. The motor mount and airframe are phenolic, the centering rings are plywood, that's what is taking the thrust. The nose cone has a built-in chamber for nose weight, because short rockets....

I have printed fins with NACA symetrical airfoils for small 38mm airframes that stay subsonic, and fins with symetrical Von Karman profiles that go sonic on a 54mm airfame, but both used a rectangular core of G10 plates using thru the wall mounting. The printed fin is just glued on for aerodynamics, the strength comes from the G10 and phenolic airframe.

I've got a larger project going where I've printed the Van Karman profile fin as a mold to lay down fiberglass, but these fins will also have a plywood core mounted thru the wall to a traditional fiberglass airfame, and held on with dense expanding urethane foam, and will get some tip-to-tip fiberglass reinforcing. These are made to fly with M and N motors, and the plywood core is enough to handle fin flutter. It's not using 3D printing as a structural element, but contributing to the build by making very precise airfoils to mold from. I see that as a possibility for nose cones and transitions as well.

As far as printing an entire rocket, I've come fairly close with an egg shaped rocket based on the mini-nuke from the video game Fallout4. It had a 38mm motor mount just barely visible with a retainer, glued inside to a 98mm phenolic airframe holding the parachute. Used a short 98mm coupler to attach the nose cone (which was weighted, because short rockets....). The entire exterior was 3D printed, including a ring fin. Painted it up to look weathered and rusted, included a faded radioactive symbol. Again, the parts under thrust are traditional, the shell on the outside was printed.

As obsessed as I am about aerodynamics and making things non-traditional in form, I've got a half completed rocket where the exterior is completely a Von Karman profile from the nose, a short straight section in the middle, and continuing as a van Karman profile as transition/tailcone to the motor opening at the bottom. One long needle. At the core is a 54mm motor mount and interior airframe holding the electronics and parachute sections. Around it are very light 3D printed sections. In the upper sections and at the thickest part I used fiberglass rods to stiffen en glue the sections to each other. The exterior will get a few layers of fiberglass, as well as all areas where the sections are glued together, making a sort of bulkhead. The fins will be droopy looking Von Karmen profiles with G10 cores that I've used on other designs. Am experimenting with chrome finishes, but it may just be metallic paint. The business end is made to take on a K/L 54mm motor, and the exterior fiberglassed, but it's basically a 3D printed rocket. I'm convinced it will fly.

Again, the art is knowing when you can print structural things, and when you need to combine them with other materials.
 

Funkworks

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In another thread, a couple of frequent posters here who shall remain nameless unless they out themselves, expressed the opinion that while 3D printing is a useful and powerful method for otherwise nigh-unsolvable problems, it is also becoming too common and a crutch in our hobby. To be fair, they acknowledge that "too much" is subjective and the statement expresses only their feelings.
...
So where do others stand?
I don't really care what people call them. Getting one is on my list.
 

modeltrains

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What I think about 3D printing comes mostly from the model railroading, plastic modeling, and miniatures games, hobbies.
In those it has allowed use and sharing of items which would otherwise not be made, as injection molding costs, specifically the molds, would be too high in relation to low demand for, or tiny size of, or low market value of, a given item.

And that is for large things too, entire locomotive and/or car bodies in G scale, objects which can approach 2 feet, 600mm, long.
And it can indeed be for smaller items, such as a replacement parts, even functional ones like couplers.

Or, for the indoor model railroad scales, operational parts such as brackets to hold powered switch machines for remote control turnouts.
Or, for modeling in the indoor scales, a style of 1870s passenger car roof the model companies will never mass produce and that it would take you at least a week to scratchbuild one and you need a dozen.

As for the practical effect of what I think; a couple days ago I received 7 sets of various 1/144 scale Astronauts and engineer figures purchased for use in model building/kitbashing projects. Didn't do the math but they probably total up to about 40 - 50 people.

Finally, remember, around half a century ago, injection molded plastic was going to destroy the model building hobby and erase any and all forms of craftsmanship from it.
 

HVArcas

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I have started to revert back to many non-3D printed parts. I love my printers but they have their limitations.

I do like them for jigs and tools because they allow me to get my holes dead on.
Absolutely, I build so many tools/jigs/spacers that it is kind of ridiculous. Off a half mil? Throw it out and print another! So cheap, so good.
 

Buckeye

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... I see your point that it moves more of the skill from fabricating to design, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing....
Exactly. Design and engineering are always the more valuable skills.

3D printing? No, it is not a crutch. You still gotta design, fly, recover the model, and meet your flight mission. Bring it on. The more the better, I say. I bought a couple printed fin cans for high power from people on this forum, and they are awesome! They require skill to design, are precise, and huge time savers. That means more to me than slobbering around with epoxy.
 

Sheree

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The way I see this is that it's the old argument that the old way was better than the new way. Back in the 50's-60's all the RC aircraft where all hand built out of balsa and hardwood. Now almost all RC aircraft are foam. fiberglass and pre-molded. Now all the gas motors are gone (except real turbines :)) and electric motors dominate. The one thing that still remains constant with RC aircraft is the FLYING and CAMARADERIE. That's what's important. Also the quality, innovation and coolness of today's RC aircraft hobby as a whole is what keeps that hobby alive and brings in new members.

Point #2 - I think that all of us "old timers" wish that the youth of today would get off their phones and computers and learn how to build things with their hands, right? Well, our wish is coming true but many of us haven't recognized it's happening all around us. Digital fabrication bridges the gap between designing and building. It's the kind of technology kids get excited about and that they can relate to. Now couple that with the current trends in space exploration and spacecraft technology (and Moon and Mars manned landings) and we have the perfect hook to insure that we all live to see what I like to call "the second renaissance of model rocketry". For those who haven't seen this video (
) check it out. This young man is a glimpse of the future of our hobby. If we all inspire, encourage and embrace our youth with all the passion we have for rocketry, we can leave our hobby in good hands.....Alex
 

JamesS

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Even before the building and flying of rockets, the primary goal for me is to just have fun. It's just another tool toward that end.
 

o1d_dude

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I pour my soul into every model I design and produce..........Alex Boyce
As someone who has never seen your work, I can only point out that the rockets comprised of three printed parts (fin can, body tube, and nose cone) which I have seen are what I based my statement on.

That being said, I do use 3d printed parts in my av and nosecone bays.
 

Ian A Dalton

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“I’m of the opinion that buying commercial motors is just a crutch.”

“I’m of the opinion that buying an E2X is a crutch.”

“I’m of the opinion that buying a kit is a crutch.“

“I’m of the opinion that not sewing your own chute is a crutch.”

If those sound ridiculous, then saying 3D printing is a crutch sounds just as ridiculous.

I’m of the opinion of not caring what others do with their toys for this hobby or any other hobby is the best way to go about my own hobby.

Fly with cardboard. Fly with glass. Fly low power or high power. Build kits or scratch build. Buy electronics or make them. 3D print the whole thing or wind your one tubes.

I design very complex and elaborate AV bays with 3D printing. I would never say the tried and true method of a pice of wood on rails is a crutch just because a person doesn’t have the skills or interest I have with their toys.
 

eggplant

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I might be biased because I work for a company that makes 3D printers, but I think they have plenty of applications in hobbies like rocketry. They are awesome for printing end-use parts like avionics sleds and camera holders, and really shine when you start to think about the tooling they can be used to make. I've printed reusable mandrels for casting propellant and plan to manufacture jigs to let me precisely drill and tap tubes to make some cheap 3" bolted motor hardware. I don't see them as a "crutch" but more as another tool that allows you to do things you couldn't before, or to build existing things better. They aren't the only solution to every problem but it is neat what they allow you to do.

Most of the customers of the company I work for buy our stuff to supplement their traditional (mill and lathe) manufacturing so they can make parts faster and/or lighter or make jigs to streamline their manufacturing line. For hobbyists who typically don't have access to equipment like that, 3D printers allow you to get the closest that you can to "real" manufacturing capabilities for under $500.
 

o1d_dude

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I design very complex and elaborate AV bays with 3D printing. I would never say the tried and true method of a pice of wood on rails is a crutch just because a person doesn’t have the skills or interest I have with their toys.
As I have said several times, your work is truly badass, Ian...and I have the receipts to prove it.
 

caveduck

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I'm having tons of fun with it - bring it on! 3D printing is a new skill, complete with design and printability constraints, structural vs weight considerations, and an already vast number of materials. Another huge tool in the toolbox. Like other technology, it will do some things fantastically, and for other stuff it will suck. It's almost the only practical way to make certain parts that were originally injection molded (Estes MIRV interstage comes to mind). As others said, it brings pretty good precision and repeatability for tooling that doesn't need to be wear resistant. You can print an RCBG fuselage nose mold plug and be pretty sure it will have correct dimensions and the servos will fit. On the other hand there are things for which you need CNC machining, or composites, and a lot of printers are fussy beasts needing a lot of brushy-brushy and TLC. And making huge numbers of printed parts is slow (though it must be noted that Prusa makes all of their own parts on roomfuls of their own machines).

You gotta recognize that lots of people will be fond of old methods that may be very familiar, or that they're really really good at, or learned it from a parent or grandparent. All good. It's just a hobby dammit!! (or in my case 38 hobbies rolled into one umbrella). But I'm not gonna tell anybody else their method is "wrong".
 

cerving

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Thermoplastic filaments are just another material we can use, and 3D printing is just another process for working with the material. It's no different the making fiberglass parts with a vacuum bag & pump, cutting balsa fins with a Cricut or a laser cutter, turning nose cones with a lathe, or machining motor retainers with a milling machine. They all have their places and require their own skills to work with them.
 

Motocrossman24

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With how small the rocketry hobby is, it’s pretty safe to say that the only real room left for innovation is with 3d printing and electronic software/hardware. It’s also safe to say that if we alienate what the new rocketeer’s enjoy, just because it isn’t the way you are familiar with, is a fast track to ending the hobby...3d printers aren’t going anywhere. They get cheaper and better every month. In another few years, its likely that 3d printers that can print metals and composites are readily available and more affordable for consumers. The ability to cheaply and efficiently prototype complex parts is unmatched, and there are plenty of printable materials that are strong enough for rocket flight, many that are stronger then cardboard and plywood. I think if you really want to shape 3d printers in the rocketry community, we should be encouraging people to be smart with what parts they build, and what materials they’re built out of, rather then some people trying to hate on the entire process.
 

jazzviper1

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I seriously doubt that 3D printing will have any negative effects on the hobby in the long run. There are different kinds of craftsmanship, 3D modeling for example is INCREDABLY HARD. If it can get more people involved in a dying hobby then it can do nothing but help. Like it or not our hobby is in danger of dying.
Very few young people are interested in hobbies like ours (not just ours), more regulations are coming too. We need all the help we can get. If you don't like 3D printing that is your right. But it could be a boost to the hobby as a whole. Lets just keep that in mind.
 

OverTheTop

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It's a bit like snowboarders. Lots of skiers really dislike snowboarders (some would argue justifiably :)). I don't mind them. Just because they choose a different way to get down the hill, it is their choice.

The word "craftsmanship" in the previous post is key. We craft things with whatever suits our skillsets and needs. 3D printing is one of the tools available to some.
 

Sheree

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Like it or not our hobby is in danger of dying.
Very few young people are interested in hobbies like ours (not just ours), more regulations are coming too. We need all the help we can get. If you don't like 3D printing that is your right. But it could be a boost to the hobby as a whole. Lets just keep that in mind.
I the last 4 years we've gotten at least 50 kids started in model rocketry due to their initial interest in our 3D printing business. Kids love computers and really like the idea of designing something and then having a machine bring their design to reality. After that, it's a simple matter of getting them to a launch and then they're hooked. Once they realize that the constraints of their imagination have been removed they see the big picture. "Whatever man can imagine, man can achieve...".
 

Ez2cDave

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Those analogies remind me of one of my other hobbies, amateur radio. It has a long history of evolution.

1) Early days of Spark Gap transmitters: "MWRAAAGH, those newfangled narrow-band continuous wave transmission will ruin radio! Real men have transmissions 100s of MHz wide! GRRRRR!"

2) CW (morse code) becomes standard: "Those fancy phone people are going to ruin radio! AM has no place on the air!"

3) AM phone is adopted: "SSB will never get popular, no one wants to sound nasally, AM will live forever! SSB is for chipmunks and Daffy Duck!"

4) SSB becomes the de-factor standard: "Digital modes will ruin the hobby! Computers have no place next to amateur radio!"

And now amateur radio is satellite operations, digital modes, software defined radio, and merging with the "maker" movement.
As a Ham, you forgot to give CBer's Hell, especially one with Linear Amplifiers, "Export Radios", or the ones who use Amateur Radio gear, modded to go to every frequency and be able to transmit & receive there. They only do that for SSB because most, if not all Ham radio's SUCK on AM . . . Yep, I still have all my gear !

10-10 & on the side !

Dave F.

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Yukon@K-9 Rocket Tech

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I fit in the description very well because I 3D EVERYTHING!!!! 3D printing all the way baby, it's the future. Insteas of sticking to old ways, I like jumping to new tech. I would not be able to do what I do without 3D printing.
 

swatkat

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I fit in the description very well because I 3D EVERYTHING!!!! 3D printing all the way baby, it's the future. Insteas of sticking to old ways, I like jumping to new tech. I would not be able to do what I do without 3D printing.
I just really like the ability to make custom parts quickly and cheaply...
 

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jqavins

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With how small the rocketry hobby is, it’s pretty safe to say that the only real room left for innovation is...
As an aside, it's never safe to say anything which starts that way. I don't know what the next innovation will be (after fully integrating 3D printing and on-the-fly custom electronics into the mainstream, that is) but I can guarantee there will be one.
 

wsume99

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I suspect that most people who talk bad about 3D printing have no experience with it. Like any material and construction method it has its place. Here's a scenario I see too often ...

Non-3D printed part of rocket fails --> the builder was the problem, poor design or construction techniques by the individual are to blame

3D printed part of rocket fails --> 3D printing shouldn't be allowed in rocketry.

IMO, and I'm sure this will ruffle some feathers, successfully flying a self-built rocket with 3D printed parts takes more skill and knowledge than assembling a similarly shaped kit with traditional materials and construction methods.
 
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Doug Holverson

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I'd like to know more about this laser attachment for a 3D printer.
 

JohnCoker

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In another thread, a couple of frequent posters here who shall remain nameless unless they out themselves, expressed the opinion that while 3D printing is a useful and powerful method for otherwise nigh-unsolvable problems, it is also becoming too common and a crutch in our hobby. To be fair, they acknowledge that "too much" is subjective and the statement expresses only their feelings.
3D printing will replace other techniques over time (for short runs) and there's no reason that we as hobbyists shouldn't use it as well.

Just like with any other material, it's the responsibility of the builder to understand the mechanical properties of the materials being used. I don't envy the TAP/L3CC members who are dealing with the first round of people thinking they can 3D print a L3 rocket fin can in PLA, but over time knowledge will disseminate and it'll be just another tool.
 

Funkworks

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I was about to start shopping seriously for a 3D printer but then read that for some materials, they smell bad. Unfortunately, if I have to take care of fumes, I’m gonna have to put it off for a while.

Still on the project list, but with a lower priority level.
 
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