We designed a 3D aircraft model to compete in the SAE Aero Design Competition. The plane is built to compete against model aircrafts from other universities, and it challenged us to design a unique plane to differentiate us in the competition. The competition goal is to simulate an airliner that can fly multiple passengers and their luggage through a set course. These “passengers” are 10 standard size tennis balls. “Luggage” is a half-pound metal weight per passenger. Competition scoring depends on the weight the aircraft will hold throughout flight.
Our challenge is that we used a 3D printed aircraft, instead of using more common materials such as balsa wood and carbon fiber. Various 3D printing techniques proved useful in improving the body form, weight and load carrying ability for the aircraft. The 3D printers available have a limited build size, so it was necessary to print the parts of the aircraft in sections, forming a modular design that is printable in various pieces.
Printing added difficulty because the different sections led to a loss of stability and strength, so we added joints to compensate. We also designed parts to minimize the weight of the aircraft and decreased drag to ensure the highest chance of successful flight.