Can 3D Printing Expand Drones’ Availability?

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

It’s always interesting when new technologies can be used in conjunction with one another, and this is something that’s now worth considering regarding drones and 3D printing.

Drones 3d printing

Both are relatively new technologies, and while we don’t tend to think of one in relation to the other, there may soon be more links than one might imagine. Specifically, it may be that with 3D printing continuing to improve and expand, it could become a tool for the construction of drones, and the expansion of their availability around the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean that drone availability is particularly limited at this point. In fact, many countries around the world have already embraced drone technology. Not only that drones relatively easy to travel with, but they are also getting more affordable by the day thanks to online shopping and global distribution.

So the premise here is not that there’s any shortage of drones or that too many people have great difficulty getting their hands on them. Rather, it’s simply that improving 3D printing technology and methods could make it easier for people to build their own drone frames or customize existing frames, as well as make the manufacturing process all the more efficient (and possibly more affordable) for drone companies. For starters, we can look to the simplified process of obtaining 3D-printed products without necessarily owning one’s own printer. The Fictiv platform discusses various available resources for a variety of 3D printing needs from prototypes to market-ready products, and makes clear that the industry has grown more flexible. The most common applications at this point might be for large companies to send off early-stage designs for prototypes in order to receive initial models, or for businesses with new product lines to get a jump on production. But it’s also made clear that at this point, most design can be turned around quickly, affordably, and with a degree of customization when it comes to materials and processes. This includes 3D-printed drone frames. We should also note that this isn’t merely a hypothetical suggestion based on the expanding availability of 3D printing tech. It’s actually something that’s been tried, and which has proven to be successful. Hackaday profiled 3D-printed quadcopter frames back in 2018 and referred to this as a means of building a quad with “the absolute minimum expense” - which will certainly appeal to a lot of people looking to take up drone-related hobbies or even run drone-related businesses (as can be the case with lots of people doing aerial footage).

This will certainly appeal to a lot of people looking to take up drone-related hobbies or even run drone-related businesses (as can be the case with lots of people doing aerial footage). Certainly, you’ll find drone enthusiasts who will roll their eyes at the idea, and who will prefer commercially available frames. At this point however there’s no denying the potential for 3D printing to produce perfectly adequate and possibly excellent drone frames, all with an affordable process and a range of suitable materials. Given all of this, one of the main takeaways is that anyone who wishes to attempt to design a 3D-printed drone at least has the means to do so. This type of manufacturing just wasn’t so widely available a few years ago, and now that it is, there are greater possibilities for further expansion of drones’ availability and customization. Individuals can craft their own designs, either to print themselves or to send off for professional printing; companies building drones could elect to use 3D printing to speed up production and send designs to remote locations more quickly.

We hope this post has been helpful to you and welcome any comments, feedback in our discussion groups. Have a safe flight!