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How 3D printing is revolutionising model aircraft

How 3D printing is revolutionising model aircraft

For decades, model aircraft building has been a popular hobby and pastime for thousands of people. The increasing availability of 3D printing technology has caught the attention of model aircraft enthusiasts across the country, and is set to have a dramatic effect on the hobby.

The progression that 3D printing has made in regards to creating lifelike and highly detailed models is staggering. There are a number of hacks and tutorials to help the public print their own favourite aircraft. Gambody offers their own:

“In this Instructable you will find the step-by-step process of 3D modeling and printing a concept fighter jet. The user shares his experience of modeling a jet for 3D printing from scratch. He uses 123D design software to create the aircraft. Taking the reader through the entire process, the user explains in details every step, illustrated with pictures.”

Taking Model Aircraft into the Future

Steadily, balsa wood kits are becoming a thing of the past. They have been superseded by hobby class 3D printers, which put greater power in the hands of the consumer. Enthusiasts are given an unprecedented ability to create one off models. Furthermore, the hobbyist can now personalise an existing model by adding 3D printed parts to it. This would have been far more difficult with the older balsa wood kits.

Model aircraft can range from tiny ornamental pieces to mini flying machines. Thanks to 3D printers, the model can actually be designed to function like a drone. The hobbyist will actually have the opportunity to fly their own design.

The latest innovation, as reported by Clare Scott in, comes from the minds at 3DLabPrint:

“The Czech company has created a sizable collection of 3D printable model planes based on historical aircraft. Meticulously researched and designed, the models include well-known 20th century fighter planes such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 H/F, the P51-D Mustang, the Spitfire Mark XVI, and more.”

Offering step-by-step instructions, this has model aircraft enthusiasts understandably excited. With detailed PDFs and tutorial videos, regular consumers will be able to create more and more complex planes. It is elevating 3D printing into an art form.

A New Dawn

We often think of 3D printing as the reserve of professionals in factories and scientific institutes. The rise of the hobbyist 3D printer is ushering in a new trend, and it’s nowhere more apparent than in the world of model aircraft. There’s a growing number of web pages dedicated to 3D print hobbyists, offering a space to share designs and skills. Recently, Tom Stanton has been showing off a number of how-to posts on printing model planes.

It will be interesting to see where the pastime of model aircraft building will go. As 3D printing becomes cheaper, the number of people testing their talent and creativity with this technology will grow.

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