3D Printing

Makerplane aims to create the first open source aircraft

Makerplane aims to create the ...
Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
detail of model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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detail of model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
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Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Seat prototype for MakerPlane (Image: MakerPlane)
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Seat prototype for MakerPlane (Image: MakerPlane)
Seat prototype for MakerPlane showing scale (Image: MakerPlane)
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Seat prototype for MakerPlane showing scale (Image: MakerPlane)
Seat prototype plans (Image: MakerPlane)
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Seat prototype plans (Image: MakerPlane)
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The idea of owning your own plane is the stuff of daydreams. It’s incredibly appealing, but despite some (relative) drops in pricing in recent years, it remains incredibly expensive. If you build your own plane from a kit, it’s a bit cheaper than buying one, but the odds are that you’ll never complete the job because kitplanes are notoriously difficult to build. However, that may be changing. MakerPlane is a project that aims to create an open source aircraft designed by contributors and built with digital manufacturing processes. You can’t download the plans into your 3D printer and fly away that afternoon, but it does hold the promise of making amateur aviation a lot more accessible.

MakerPlane plans to do for the aviation industry what Firefox and Linux did for computers. By adopting open source design and digital manufacturing, MakerPlane's founder John Nicol hopes to overcome the frustration and disappointment that most kit plane builders encounter. Over 60 percent of all kitplanes started end up collecting dust and those that are finished must overcome the challenges of complicated plans, the need for special tools and thousands of hours of labor with little or no manufacturer support.

Nicol believes that a more community-oriented design approach will overcome many of these obstacles. Israel-based aeronautical engineer Jeffrey Meyer is leading the MakerPlane charge to develop a safe, inexpensive kitplane that can be built at home or at a “makerspace” through the efforts of people volunteering their efforts and ideas. MakerPlane intends to make the plans and avionics software for the plane available for free, but will sell parts and support services to fund the project.

The basic design of MakerPlane 1.0, the prototype, has been settled on. It will be a two-seater light sports plane with a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 lbs) with a maximum speed of 120 knots (138 mph, 222 kph) and a ballistic parachute as a safety feature. “Basic” is the operative word here because one aspect of the MakerPlane project is to make the aircraft modular with many different options available as to wings, landing gear, engine and so on.

Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)
Model of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)

The other side of the MakerPlane project is that the aircraft will forego traditional building techniques in favor of digital fabrication. MakerPlane 1.0 will be built using computer-controlled (CNC) routers with 3D printers to help fabricate some of the parts. MakerPlane will also supply builders with the electronic files needed to program the machinery.

“The time savings are immense," says Nicol. "A wing rib can be cut out on a CNC machine in a matter of two or three minutes, instead of the current two or three hours using traditional methods. Our build process will include simple step by step build and assembly instructions, videos and animations. We are hoping to minimize text as much as possible.”

So far, MakerPlane 1.0 is still in the design stage, but the aim is to have the design complete within a year and for the prototype to fly at the 2014 AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Source: MakerPlane via DVICE

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11 comments
MQ
Are they deliberately trying to make this Look like a boxy RC plane... I know nice curves are expensiGet rid of the sharp edges and see the aerodynamics improve drastically.... Ok if they want to flat pack it all, straight sheets make sense (also cheaper to mould, but the moulds, are made once and used many times... Notice the wing is smooth, and aerodynamic (of course) , well why is the fuselage then just a couple of flat slabs thrown together.... transitions make an aero package... (I am full of praise for the concept, though the execution may be lacking...) Also, kit planes are notoriously unfinished because the average "builder/storer" buys one on a dream, without any experience building planes (they are usually "pilots", but not always.)... all kit plane builders need to start small.. an RC plane looking like this, is a start, then make one on 2-3 metre wing span (fix up the obvious imperfections), full size is only 4 times as big with about the same types of components (more of them and bigger)... Once the builder has done a couple of smaller versions they they may be ready for the full size one.... Without dedication they (any versions) never get finished... Even a small RC plane takes time to do well (Or you can buy a foamy from hobbyking).
Oztechi
What a great idea! we need more people in the world who's sole aim in life is to help others enjoy the things you enjoy and not simply make a fat profit for themself. I hope this project succeeds.
Synchro
MD, did you miss the point? This is an open-source plane - if you don't like the design, use your own expertise to improve it. In the mean time, I don't think it's that boxy, and large curved parts imply large, complex, expensive moulds that are not cost-effective for a one-off self-builder. It would be nice to see more open-source hardware projects - washing machines spring to mind since most mainstream manufacturers seem to produce overpriced, corner-cutting, over-complex, planned-obsolescent, de-toleranced junk. And I think I've used up my quota of hyphens.
Robt
Nice idea but I don't think they understand the time allocation issues when building a kitplane. Wing ribs are already cut out prior to delivery, so the example stated in the article is a bit of a red herring. If you buy a high quality 'quick-build' kit from an established company like Vans, or Glasair, the basic airframe can be finished quite quickly. The real time and effort comes in fitting the engine, wiring, fitting out the cockpit, and bringing exterior surfaces up to a high quality. In addition, safety issues such as weight and weight distribution have to be addressed carefully while the build is ongoing. Even if this particular effort does not succeed 100%, I hope they'll contribute to some understanding of the process to a wider audience, and through that alone, they may make some worthwhile contributions to the field.
solutions4circuits
Looks like, with the right materials, and some missile rails (one reason for open source is mods and accessories), this would make for a nice, low radar cross-section, UAV that civilians can use as a second amendment ownership right to defend against a rogue, UAV-crazy, Fed. But it also could be built in a cave in {pick your favorite "terrorist" place}, so someone call DHS and have them shut this effort down asap. If a civilian is building something like this, out of sight of everyone, they must be up to no good and stopped.
Kenny Creed
Having built two airplanes myself I can honestly say this is pure jibberish. It is quite obvious they have never done anything other than play on their computer. They have no clue about what the challenges are in building an airplane, or what the design compromises are in an airplane. If you really want a "Light-sport" airplane, they don't get any better performing, or easier to build than the Van's RV-12.
John Nicol
Kenny, Please read our website and forums before making such uninformed and quite nasty comments. I have two aircraft projects under my belt and Jeffrey has over 30 years designing aircraft. Other volunteers have built, or are building aircraft. It is easy to sit back and criticize, it is quite another to get off one's ass and do something positive. John Nicol
Brian Nicholas
It seems like an interesting concept. To the naysayers: Isn't this essentially how the first plane was built? A group of people decided to test their knowledge of design and engineering to create something new. Isn't that really how all innovation begins? Now for my own naysaying: How the FAA will treat such aircraft. I'm sure it would qualify for E-LSA however, because it is open source, what is to keep someone from altering their design so that it would not meet FAA standards? Current kit planes are built with those requirements in mind. So I'm curious to see how those involved with the project handle that and how the will communicate that to potential builders. Further, MakerPlane intends to use 3D printing for creating portions of the airframe. 3D printing and 3D printers are not an inexpensive technology. I'm not 100% up on what they cost, but it makes me wonder if it might be more cost effective for a potential builder to look at a kit plane from Vans or one of the other manufacturers. On the whole though, this seems like a really awesome concept.
Richard Hughes
You guys are re-inventing the wheel! http://www.cozyaircraft.com/ Burt Rutan beat you to it 40 years ago! http://www.opencanard.com/index.php/Main_Page
Martin Hone
I agree with Kenny on this. Whilst I applaud anyone trying to make airplane building quicker and cheaper using modern technologies, most kits these days have the ribs already formed and even if they aren't, it doesn't take long to make one. Using a CNC machine implies that the Makerplane uses milled from solid (highly unlikely) or cut from sheet alloy, which will still require some folding and bending and rivetting. I wish them well, but maybe some more research from the writer would have helped...