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SegelFlieger

3D Printing For Kite Making and Customization

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I would like to propose a new topic relating to the use of 3D Printing technology to create parts for building and customizing kites.

I have almost a year of experience with this technology, using it every day, and would like to share what I have learned with those of you who are interested in the subject.

I am an engineer by profession and finding this new tool has been the realization of a dream of a lifetime...  If I can sketch an idea on paper and then create a 3D model of it with software then I can hold a physical example of my idea in my hand after printing it.  Many ideas can be used as functional parts rather than just prototypes.

Surprisingly, the technology is rather affordable for the consumer these days.  But there is a moderate degree of skill that you will need to have to design and print your own parts.  Printing parts that others have designed is less complicated but also requires some computer skill and skill in using your particular printer.

If it is agreed that this is an interesting topic, then please reply and I will give an introduction to my setup and workflow and some examples of parts that can be made.

I’m looking forward to your replies.  I am very enthusiastic about the subject and hope that your input will also help me gain knowledge.

Regards,

Segel

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Personally I think it's a great topic. Would love to see a repository of 3D Printed connector patterns.

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Really like the possibilities that could be achieved with 3D printing! I can say that initial start up price is what has me gun shy.

Definitely a topic to follow for me!


Sent from my iPhone using KiteLife mobile app

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There was somebody on the old GWTW forum that was starting to make connectors et al.....

This is a great idea!!!

bt

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I'd be interested for sure.  I have a printer, but it seems like my prints are too "rough" (i.e. layer lines) and would need to be sanded so as not to abrade lines/sails.  I'd like to see whether that's due to the quality of my printer or not (it was pretty cheap).

Also, it would be good to know how well the more friendly plastics like PLA and ABS hold up.

 

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Great!  I’m ecstatic that there is an interest in the subject.  I will start with my personal discovery of this technology. 

Almost a year ago today I was trying to create some rather complex kite-flying related parts and planned on making them with my available shop tools. A friend of mine suggested that I consider 3D printing them; note that he knew absolutely nothing about the technology but had heard about it.  I shrugged it off remembering that my children’s High School had purchased a multi-thousand dollar printer and kept it locked in a room so the kids couldn’t break it.  Too much $$ for what I’m wanting to do I said.

Then, my friend and his wife went to a local Library technology class introducing 3D printing and reported that I should really look into this.  I then did my first Google search on the subject and found out that this is really much reachable for the consumer these days.

I found that you could purchase a *very* capable 3D printer for ~$250 or less which is not much more than a regular laser printer might cost.  Having been stung with the price of Ink Cartridges and Toner costs to operate a printer, I was bracing myself for what it will cost to feed a 3D printer...  $16 - $25 for a Kg of filament!  This will probably mean nothing to those of you who haven’t explored this but a Kg of filament lasts quite a long time!

After doing much research I found that the Creality Ender 3 Pro was the place to start.  There are many printers on the market but this one received great reviews for features that higher priced models had such as a heated bed, .1mm resolution, and the ability to modify it.  Which I did.

I have made the following modifications, each cost ~$15 each but were well worth the cost:

1. Replaced the magnetic bed with a glass bed; makes removing parts much easier

2. Replaced the bed springs with actual compression die springs; less bed leveling required

3. Replaced the original Bowden tubing with Capricorn tubing which has tighter tolerances and is slicker; improves Filament Retraction performance.

I have attached some pictures of each of these.  Note that the Ender 3 Pro requires a moderate amount of assembly and it helps to be mechanically inclined.

Following comments on this post I plan to follow-up with the work-flow required to use the printer.

-Segel

Ender3_GlassBed.jpg

Ender3Capricorn.jpg

Ender3Pro.jpg

Ender3Springs.jpg

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Hello Don Fibonacci,

The most common material that is the easiest to print is PLA.  I use a variant designated as PLA+ and have been using the eSun brand exclusively with excellent results;  this brand is what our Public Library uses city-wide and was recommended to me, and I can see why.  PLA+ varies by manufacturer.  Each have tried to improve the mechanical properties of PLA and eSun has done a very consistent job of it.

In following posts I plan to describe my experience with materials.  ABS is very difficult to print with an open-frame printer.  ABS requires very tight ambient temperature control for the object you are printing due to the high glass-transition temperature of the polymer; warping on medium to large parts is unavoidable without a temperature controlled enclosure.

I am guessing that you might be able to resolve your "coarse" print issues by adjusting some settings in your slicing software.  I rarely sand my prints unless I am removing printed "supports" which I will also expand on later.

I hope this is helpful and I'm glad you are interested in experimenting!

-Segel

 

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I am curious what parts are you thinking of that would need 3D printing? 

Angled connectors already exist in bulk at many angles and diameters, assorted end caps, nocks, stoppers, clips, dihedral and APA connections, and flexible fittings (made from rubber tubing or bent metal) are readily available. The connectors are solidly built. The same companies that make and distribute composite spars and rods used to have a color coded system for diameters. The color codes are mostly passed, but the wide variety of parts still exists. 

Between the hardware stores and kite shops just about any angle or flexible fitting can be found or made by drilling. 

I could see it for prototypes or if you do not want to pay shipping costs or wait for shipping times. As you described, most parts could be 3D printed if someone really wants to.

Do you know how they would compare in strength, stress, and pressure capabilities versus existing molded parts?

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From my standpoint, I'm trying new things constantly that there simply aren't parts for.. Eagerly following this so I can consider making parts for my own designs..

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13 hours ago, SegelFlieger said:

The most common material that is the easiest to print is PLA.  I use a variant designated as PLA+ and have been using the eSun brand exclusively with excellent results

PLA is what I've used for almost all of my prints.  It works great for most things. I worry about its heat tolerance - my friend printed a dash part for his car, painted it and left it out to dry.  It ended up "melting" slightly and warping.  I live in Phoenix, so heat is a real issue when flying.  I'll try the PLA+.

I do have a closed (mostly) printer and I've printed a few small things in ABS.  It's definitely trickier.

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12 hours ago, frob said:

Do you know how they would compare in strength, stress, and pressure capabilities versus existing molded parts?

My experience is that a small 3D printed part (in PLA anyway) is not very strong under tension compared to molded parts.  It does pretty well under compression.  I've heard that PLA will deform over time when subjected to constant pressure - but I haven't had occasion to experience that myself.

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One problem with 3D printing is that the process produces a grain in the structure, so you have to carefully consider the orientation of the parts on the print bed to optimise the strength during service. I first started using 3D printing to produce prototypes back in 1988 and the parts were incredibly fragile in those days.

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Properly designed and printed, you can make most parts as durable as you would ever need.  To do so they are inevitably going to be overbuilt to some degree, which will increase weight.  For a lot of kite parts, it’s probably not a big deal.  Don’t try to make fittings for your indoor dualy or quad, though. 😉

The layering is where you loose most of the strength.  A molten bead laid onto a cooler layer beneath it just can’t bond with the same integrity as a homogeneously molded part.   You can improve this to a degree by doing things like dipping the part in solvent. All the layers melt a bit, flow together and then harden again.  The surface is then more like a molded part.  Downsides?  Big bowls of nasty solvents aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, and you need to be careful not to overdo it, distorting the part.  

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3D Printing Workflow

This post goes out to Riffclown, wanting to make parts that don’t exist...

Note: I have intentionally not included links to the software products that I mentioned because versions and websites change frequently.  Instead just Google the bold-faced product names and you will find a current link.

It sounds like many of you are experienced with the process of 3D printing, but for those of you who are not and are considering it I would like to try and explain, as simply as possible, what you need to do to make a 3D print.  I tend to be slightly verbose in my explanations but don’t let a lot of text make it seem like this is really hard to do. (simple but verbose J)

  1. Purchase a 3D printer.  There are many on the market but I have given an example of the Creality Ender 3 Pro which works very well for me.  Choose what you think will work best for your needs.
  2. Have an idea ready.  Get a piece of paper and sketch something that you intend to make.  You may be replicating, improving, or modifying an existing design that you physically have.  In that case you will want to have a “caliper” that you can measure your existing part; preferably digital, get one that has both standard and metric units.  Sketch it with dimensions that you will need to build it; it doesn’t have to be perfect or to scale, just accurate enough that you can draw the 3D Model which is the next step.
  3. Create a 3D Model.  This requires a computer and software to create the model.  There are some excellent options that are FREE available for making mechanical parts.  I should say beforehand that learning how to use the software requires a large investment of time but it is worth it.  Because of this you may want to consider the choice that you make.  Fusion360 by AutoDesk (the AutoCAD folks) is an awesome package and will do way more than you would ever learn how to do for your designs; it is free for hobbyists and startups but should you ever decide to sell anything you are designing then you will have to pay a subscription.  DesignSpark Mechanical on the other hand is also a very capable 3D design software package and is FREE for both personal and commercial use.  Learn to convert your Sketches into 3D Models with this type of software.  Save your 3D Models as an .STL file for the next step.
  4. Once you have a 3D Model (.STL) file, then you will need to prepare it to print.  This is done using what is called “Slicing” software.  This is software that you tell it beforehand what your printer model is and what material you are printing and then use it to create a file that your Specific printer can understand to print it.  This is called a .gcode file.  This file format goes way back to the origins of CNC machining.  I use Ultimaker Cura which is also FREE and probably one of the most common slicing software applications out there.  Within the Slicing Software there will be several settings that you can configure for the print.  A few are very important for creating the result that you intend to get.  I will not elaborate on these now but a few are rather important to make strong parts.  To summarize this step: you create a .gcode file your printer can understand to make the print.
  5. Unlike a paper printer that you are used to, you don’t usually have the 3D printer connected to your computer; prints take from 5 minutes to 1 ½ days depending on the size and resolution.  Instead you usually copy the .gcode file to a memory card and insert it into the printer.  There are then steps for your specific printer to preheat it.  You must also level the bed of your printer before printing.  You then select the .gcode file you created from your printer and tell it to print.

     

So those were a lot of words, and it seems like a daunting process.  But once you become familiar with the quirky details required for your setup, you will become creative, I guarantee it.  Expect frustration in the beginning, but you will be rewarded with a tool that you never imagined was possible once you are friends with it.

-Segel

 

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3D Printing Example

Here is an example of a problem that I solved making a part with my 3D printer.

I’ve been in the process of getting ready to go to Long BeachWA the week of August 17th to enjoy some time away with my wife and some good wind and hopefully some good company of other kite flyers.  Anyway, I had a long list of things to repair and check to get ready.  After I repaired my kite and assembled it, I was bothered by one thing I never liked about the Rev LE; the rods on the ends droop below the LE pocket and don’t support it.  This isn’t ideal in low wind.  One morning I was walking and thinking and this idea came to my head.  An hour later it was a reality.

RevSadEnd.JPGRevHappyEnd.JPGRevEndSupport.JPG

-Segel

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Reply to Frob,

Great points about concerns regarding strength and mechanical properties of a 3D printed part.  There are many adjustments that can be made during the "Slicing" process that can make your component weak or strong, independent of the material you are printing.  Getting that right can make all the difference.  The "litmus test" is to stress test the part after it has been made.  For connectors I use drill bits to fit the connectors at their differing angles and pull very hard until I break them.  When I can barely break them or not break them at all I call my part good.

One concern I have with PLA+ is high ambient heat.  I have not put my printed parts in the trunk of my car for long periods.  I will experiment with that and let you know how that turns out.  It's supposed to by 100+ tomorrow in Spokane.  I will put a PLA+ Rev End Cap in the worst possible place of my car and let you know how it turns out.

-Segel

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7 hours ago, SegelFlieger said:

3D Printing Example

Here is an example of a problem that I solved making a part with my 3D printer.

I’ve been in the process of getting ready to go to Long BeachWA the week of August 17th to enjoy some time away with my wife and some good wind and hopefully some good company of other kite flyers.  Anyway, I had a long list of things to repair and check to get ready.  After I repaired my kite and assembled it, I was bothered by one thing I never liked about the Rev LE; the rods on the ends droop below the LE pocket and don’t support it.  This isn’t ideal in low wind.  One morning I was walking and thinking and this idea came to my head.  An hour later it was a reality.

RevSadEnd.JPGRevHappyEnd.JPGRevEndSupport.JPG

-Segel

I had similar concerns with both the leading edge and the bottom corners. While not a 3D printed part, our solutions were kind of along the same idea..

 

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17 hours ago, SegelFlieger said:

Create a 3D Model.  This requires a computer and software to create the model.

An amazing thing about 3D printing that should be mentioned - the HUGE variety of models already out there for free download. 

One day, my car wouldn't start.  I suspected the clutch interlock safety switch had broken off again.  It's just a little rubber bumper that fits on the clutch to triggers a switch when you depress the pedal.  Without the little bumper, the car doesn't know you have the clutch depressed, and you're stuck.

This time, I had a brainwave - I'll go back to the 3D printer in my office and design a replacement!  I was about to start measuring and modeling, but then I thought if my switch had broken twice, it must happen to other people too.  A quick search brought up a design for the exact part for my exact model and year - https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2447785.  Ten minutes later I was on my way home!

The moral of the story is you often don't even have to design the model yourself.  Although that's usually the fun part - I admit I couldn't resist tweaking and re-printing the clutch switch later, the original one made a tiny clicking sound when I pressed the clutch... 😡

 

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Don, That's a great story!  And thanks for including the link to thingiverse; others in this forum should explore it to see what else a 3D printer might be able to accomplish for you.  There are TONS of models that can be printed if you don't want to invent them yourself;  unfortunately, not many models are kite related (*yet*) but there are a few.

As our forum conversations go, we are discussing the use of 3D technology for kite parts and modifications but you make an excellent point:  You shouldn't consider that this is the only purpose your printer will serve.  Rather, consider it like an investment for the next power-tool that you want to buy for a DIY project and it will end up becoming useful for many other things as well; like that obsolete plastic part from Sears for your dishwasher basket, akin to the "clutch interlock safety switch bumper".

And regarding machining tools vs 3D printing, I often think, and am still in awe, about the differences in how a part is made using each.  While machining you create a part by removing material and there is, of course, waste; stock material cut to size and discarding what you can't use, removing the remaining material until you have the part you wanted.  When 3D printing you create a part by "adding" material and there is very little waste (sometimes you need supports which are discarded).

an aside: As an example of machining waste: when making an airplane wing frame for a commercial aircraft, ~90% of the Aluminum material is removed and discarded.

-Segel

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