3D printed airplane miniature


This was an experiment: I wanted to see how well Shapeway’s stainless steel prints turn out, especially for tiny details. For a test, I picked a model of the Lockheed Model 10 Electra – the airplane Amelia Earheart flew on her last flight.

I will be showing some paper airplane models at the Aero Expo starting on Wednesday, April 14, and I thought it would be nice to bring along a 3D printed steel model as well.

I had made a paper model of a similar Lockheed airplane before, and after tinkering with the schematics a little bit (more on this in a future tutorial), I had a 3D model that was fit for printing.

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Turns out, Shapeway managed to produce a very nice print. This is not plastic, but stainless steel. It’s bronze-infused, meaning it has an almost golden sheen to it.

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As far as I know, Shapeways uses a sintering process to print these, so there is no need for support material, and thus no visible attachment points. Being used to working with plastics, the weight of a stainless steel model feels great, too.

The details turned out very nice. I was concerned with the propeller blades, as they are very small and thin, but they printed nicely and don’t feel like they will break off easily.

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So, all in all I would consider this a success, except maybe for the price, which is not horrible, but not insignificant either – after all, this is a very small model (about 5cm long). Nevertheless, if you want to have one, too, you can order it from Shapeways. Mine took about one week for printing and shipping.




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  1. Rob,

    Hi how did cost to print out the plane and where did you get the drawing to do it and is it to scale?

    1. admin,

      It cost about 17 EUR to have it printed at Shapeways. I worked from schematics I found in a book. The model is not perfectly exact, as I had to approximate the shapes in order to not overly complicate the modelling, but it is roughly to scale, yes.

  2. Neal Carlson,

    The aircraft pictured is a Lockheed Constellation Model 049 4 engine long range airliner which first flew in early 1943. Amelia Earhart flew a Lockheed Model 10 twin engine aircraft known as the Electra. She and her navigator were lost in 1937.

    1. admin,

      Hi Neal, thanks for pointing this out. Yes, you are absolutely right. I made both models, but mixed up the photos and descriptions. Sorry for the slip up!

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