3D Printed Mini FPV Tricopter!

by Rocketman1092 | November 6, 2014 | (32) Posted in Projects

Hey guys!

You may have seen my X-47B build log a few months ago. While my latest project isn't nearly as elaborate, it's certainly a lot of fun! I've been experimenting with 3D printing lately, and think it's a great tool for R/C. While printed plastic parts aren't quite light enough for airplanes, they make great multirotor frames. Since I'd been wanting to get into mini FPV racing, this seemed like a great way to do it. Plus, I could easily print and sell kits afterwards if the design was successful. There was just one issue - mini quads are everywhere, and I wanted something more unique. My first multirotor build was David Windestal's RCExplorer tricopter design back in 2010, and I always liked the way it flew. I eventually moved on to other configurations, but thought it'd be fun to have a tricopter again. So, I decided to design a mini tri from the ground up, specifically for FPV racing and with 3D printing in mind.

The first step was to CAD the design. Since the printer is driven directly by the CAD model, it needed to be as precise as possible. Plus, I wanted to keep everything enclosed for a very clean-looking design. This meant modeling every single component, from the motors and propellers right down to each individual screw. Fortunately a copter this small has fairly few parts, so it only took a couple of weekends to complete the design. Here's the result:

 And here's a transparent view:

As you can see, everything's packed nice and tight inside the center body. The battery is enclosed as well, with a slide-on top hatch. The design has been optimized for 3D printing, with flat surfaces and chamfers placed so that every part could be printed without support material. This means that no clean-up work is necessary once the parts come off the machine. Next step - making parts!

The first parts I printed were the arms. I originally used white ABS plastic, but later switched to black PLA. It's more rigid and the layers adhere better. Each set of arms takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to print.

Next came the center bodies. There's a top half, bottom half, battery tray, and hatch. In total, it's about 6 hours of printing time. I let the printer run for a weekend, producing the first "batch" of kits. I bought an assortment of filament colors to add some variety.

Assembly came next. The frame is held together with screws, and no glue is required. This makes for easy assembly, and one of these can easily be put together in an afternoon. 

Then it was time to add the electronics. I'm using the following components:

- SunnySky 2204 2300kV motors 
- Gemfan 5x3 Props 
- Magic 12A ESCs with SimonK 
- Glacier 3S 1000mah Battery 
- HS-55 Tail Servo 
- Panasonic CX-161 Camera 
- HobbyKing TS5823 Mini Video Transmitter 

My first build used an APM 2.5 flight controller. This was quite big, and took up a lot of space inside the frame. I couldn't even fit some of the FPV gear!

To solve this problem, I switched to the Naze32 flight controller. This is much smaller, and is a popular controller for minis. Plus, I could use an Orange satellite receiver by itself, saving even more room. Here's what the inside looks like now. Even with all the FPV gear and ESCs inside, there's some empty space left over for cooling airflow.

After that, it was only a matter of screwing on the top of the frame and adding the battery hatch. Here are completed pics of both my first and second builds:

And close-ups of the tail servo mount and battery:

Time to fly! The Naze32 was rock solid right from the start, and the tri handles great. The APM version did fine too, though it required a bit more tuning. FPV is a blast, and I'm looking forward to giving racing a try. 

Finally, a pic next to a friend's mini quad for scale:

That's it for now, hope you guys found this "mini" project interesting! I love how this design turned out, and would like to get it out there for other pilots. If you've got 3D printer access, you'll find the design files on Thingiverse free of charge: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:526082. I also make kits to sell, since I might as well put my 3D printer to work! They go for $40 plus shipping - feel free to email me at ericmaglio (at) cox.net if interested. 

 

Thanks for reading!

COMMENTS

hicwic on November 7, 2014
Hi, nice design !

As i don't have a printer i'm interesting of buying one from you. Orange with grey arms and grey "middle" like the blue one you show us. 250 size.

How much do you think this will cost to send this to France ?

thx
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Rocketman1092 on November 7, 2014
Hi - I replied to your message on Thingiverse. Glad you're interested in my design!
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ezromao on November 7, 2014
Nice project! Thanks for sharing!
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Nathan_116 on November 7, 2014
Sweet design. Now all you need to do is make the arms foldable like the one the guys mentioned on kickstarter, the pocket drone, and figure out all the programming they have, and then you could be a good competitor. :) I wish i had a 3D printer so I could design things like this myself. I am debating currently whether or not to build a quad or tri and I'm starting to think tri.
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Rocketman1092 on November 7, 2014
I never understood the big deal about the Kickstarter pocket drone - it's just a mini tricopter with an APM. Seems like kickstarter is becoming less of an investment tool for innovators and more of a place where people just pre-order things that may or may not reach production.
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eagle4 on November 7, 2014
looks really good mate. i absolute love the multi stage design of the body. i think your motor mounts might need to be a bit thicker as they look like they will easily snap in a crash.
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Rocketman1092 on November 7, 2014
Maybe, I haven't crashed yet so I don't know for sure! PLA is pretty tough material.
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eagle4 on November 7, 2014
I also want to say. Really great article mate. This is the kind of thing we need to see more of. very well done
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Christian Jeppesen on November 7, 2014
Very nicely made :D. and a better design than most of those kickstarter DJI wanna be's!. 5 stars to you.
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tctmonkey on November 7, 2014
You need some help setting up a web store front, kidding? I am interested as well, but do not have a 3 d printer. Where do I send the paypal?
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Rocketman1092 on November 7, 2014
Haha, a web store probably wouldn't be a bad idea! For now, just send me an e-mail at ericmaglio (at) cox.net
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arthur115 on November 8, 2014
looks awesome!!
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RaptorTech on November 8, 2014
This is great! How many iterations did you go though on the parts before everything fit well?
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Rocketman1092 on November 8, 2014
First set of parts fit decently, and I cleaned up any loose ends on the second. I've managed to get my printer calibrated pretty well.
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cbarnes0061 on November 8, 2014
Looks awesome. Need a video of it and this really makes me want a 3D printer.
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nizzamms on November 9, 2014
Hello Rocketman1092

can i ask question

1. How long the flight time including 1K 3cell
2.Do u use wire connection for power distribution board ?
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Rocketman1092 on November 9, 2014
Haven't timed it yet, but I'd say it's around 7 minutes. There's probably room for 1300mah with the right sized pack.

I just directly soldered the ESC power leads together. Space is at a premium, so I went without a power distribution board.
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Corsair2014 on November 10, 2014
awesome man, nice job!
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rallekralle11 on November 10, 2014
nice little tri you got there, maybe something i would make if i had any money
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lracnolip on November 10, 2014
nice job, I would buy one
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Aliant_88 on November 13, 2014
Great little tri! what is the weight of the frame itself?
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Rocketman1092 on November 13, 2014
Just about 4oz
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Gravitysucks on November 13, 2014
So cool !!

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Carmatious on November 13, 2014
No detailed analytics for this project? You have not yet updated the X-47 article. I'd like to learn from you.
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Rocketman1092 on November 15, 2014
No detailed analytics needed for a tricopter, just "put three motors in a Y shape". I'm planning my next detailed fixed wing project, but it'll be a while.

Not much new on the X-47, but I'll update the article with some more flight photos.
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Carmatious on November 19, 2014
Have you ever thought of trying a dual rotor copter?
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Rocketman1092 on November 19, 2014
Maybe at some point, though I have some pretty strong feelings about the effectiveness of a dual rotor design. A quad tilt rotor is much more likely.
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Hell2Go on November 22, 2014
Really cool, I want one, is it hard to fly being so small? I was thinking of building Davids tricopter first to learn to fly, would a bigger tri move a little slower making it easier for a beginner? then advance to this hot little tri?
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Rocketman1092 on November 24, 2014
It's not hard, though it gets tough to see unless flown close. It's meant mostly for FPV so this usually isn't a problem.

David's tricopter is a great starting point. That's how I got into multirotors a few years ago.
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RMW16 on November 27, 2014
Can it fit 6in propellers?
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kristoferahlqivst on November 30, 2014
Yes. I've tried mine with 6x3
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kristoferahlqivst on December 4, 2014
Might have to add that I use 1806 motors and they are a bit higher than 2204 motors so the prop is higher and goes above the fuselage. With 2204 and 6" it may hit the fuselage
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FKreider on November 27, 2014
What size print area is required? What model printer are you using?
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lracnolip on November 30, 2014
i just got mine, very nice, even better then what i was expecting. Looks like it will be a fun build looking forward to maiden flight, TY
I would gladly buy another products you make.
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kristoferahlqivst on December 1, 2014
FYI turnigy 1300mah 3s fits perfectly. Might also be able to fit a bigger lipo
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roimi99 on December 5, 2014
I found this a few weeks ago on thingiverse...and as a trip pilot, this outdoes the hovership quad

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bluetear000 on December 13, 2014
do u think u will try a moded rear boom for a v tail quad so u can just swap out the arm and go???
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samick on December 24, 2014
Where would this ship from?
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Rocketman1092 on December 28, 2014
I ship from California.
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samick on January 3, 2015
cool. any idea of shipping weight? i'm trying to figure out what it would cost to ship to 59808
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Rocketman1092 on January 4, 2015
Shipping is only about $4 to anywhere in the US.
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nkdurrett on January 6, 2015
so whats the chances of a full size kk2.1 fitting inside this little tri???
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Rocketman1092 on January 7, 2015
It likely won't fit unmodified, but it's close. I think some guys have managed to install them by shaving away some plastic on the inside of the frame.
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bluetear000 on January 9, 2015
any chance u could share what u used for your PID tuning on your this tricopter. I have tried a few things and can not get the tail servo to stop wagging. I am using Turnigy TSS-10HM Digital Micro Servo 2.2kg / 10g / 0.12 for the yaw servo andB-12A Ice Blue series SimonK-(RapidESC) every thing else is same as on your list of parts
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lracnolip on January 17, 2015
finally got time to finish the build, it flies nice and looks good. Used a cc3d board and had problems getting to the USB and just had to tighten things up at the back to reduce slop from the servo. Tight fit for everything, but that leaves no wasted space and brings down the weight. Using a 3s 1000mah battery and get about 5 minutes a flight. What I like about this design is how finished it looks and the extra protection against the elements. I would recommend this frame to anyone and hope to see a mini quad for sale soon.
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Rocketman1092 on February 4, 2015
Mini quad is now available! Files are here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:664260. I've got some kits available as well, $45 plus shipping.
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Rookie_1 on February 8, 2015
How about a hexacopter? My friend would be interested in buying one.
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Dova75 on June 22, 2015
Hi, Would love to buy one from you. Did you ever get a website up so you can sell them? If so what is it so I can get one?
Thanks
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Rookie_1 on August 21, 2015
hi i bought one of your kits a few months back i built it using the kk2 mini board. but the problem was that the yaw never worked right. i had one amazing flight but stripped the servo. then bought a metal gear servo but the yaw again never worked and i crashed snapping the tail boom clean off. and it was a drop from 3 feet in the air onto soft grass with no power.
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cavitoni on September 20, 2015
Hi; thanks for your information, we want to make at Mini FPV Tricopter by 3d printer, we can make with resine high hardness, by we need all electronic components, you can send us?what is total price? thanks
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legobo on January 17, 2016
really nice design, i wish i could get one
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flying-coqui on February 12, 2016
Nice design. I have some questions. What 3d cad program you use? How do you printed, in parts...? What 3d printer you use?
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legobo on April 11, 2016
do you reckon a 200mw immersion rc vtx would fit along with the other electronics?
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legobo on April 11, 2016
i might print this , as then i could tri something else :)

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planecrazysam1 on October 10, 2016
Could you upload a video of it flying? Great job otherwise!
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3D Printed Mini FPV Tricopter!