Top 6 3D Printed RC Planes You Can Print Today (2023)
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When was the first time you asked how a plane flies? We’ve all done it at some point because at first it looks like it should be impossible! This question may the reason why aviation has been a fascination for many for a long time.
To us non-engineers, planes are basically magic, even if we don’t enjoy flying in them. And to you engineers out there, you likely didn’t get that knowledge by accident.
Remote control planes are equally intriguing. After all, who can resist the idea of remotely flying something lightweight and airborne? And the only thing cooler than an RC plane is a 3D printed RC plane.
And so, we’ve looked around and found some of the coolest 3D printed plane models to get into the air today, as well as all the information you’ll need to get the aerodynamics right.
With all these things in mind, here are our picks for the coolest 3D printed RC planes.
- The Hawker Hurricane
- Plane Doe 3D Printed RC Plane
- 36’’ Northern Pike RC Airplane
- Supernova RC Plane Models
- Stay Outdoors
- Be Careful and Measure Well
- Know Your Engineering Limits
- Know the Law
- Crash Landings
- Seek Advice
My Top RC Plane Downloads
The Hawker Hurricane
- Download: Cults3D
- Designer: TACIUCMARIUS
- Price: $99
The Hawker Hurricane was a passion project for the designer, Taciucimarius, who is an engineer by profession, as he wanted to build a fully remote-controlled 3D printed plane from scratch, tried and tested to be one of the best around.
Because of his engineering background, the Hawker Hurricane is an impressive and reliable RC plane. Along with the sources in the link above, you’ll find a host of very detailed and highly accurate instructions to get the best results.
Alongside these assembly instructions is a video tutorial, so visual learners will have no problem following along.
But don’t be discouraged by this level of detail, as the instructions are still clear and easy to follow. The creator also keeps an eye on the comment section if you have any questions or even want to show off your results!
Plane Doe 3D Printed RC Plane
- Download: Thingiverse
- Designer: Air3lax
- Price: Free
The Plane Doe may not look like much, and it certainly won’t turn as many heads as the Hawker Hurricane, but its beauty is in its simplicity.
Like the Hurricane, the instructions are heavily detailed and very well laid out, making sure you have the exact right settings like recommended nozzle size and print speed from wing to tip.
There are also specs for the plane while it’s in flight, including propeller RPM, minimum velocity, ideal filament, and basic safety measures to ensure hassle-free printing and flying. It’s not exactly light reading, but it’s all very helpful.
The designer also lists the extra tools and pieces you’ll need for full construction of the body, letting you get organized during printing to get your plane flying as soon as possible.
Please note, however, that the designer recommends this model only for experienced RC plane users, stating that it’s ideal for neither children nor beginners.
36’’ Northern Pike RC Airplane
- Download: Thingiverse
- Designer: localfiend
- Price: Free
Definitely one of the coolest 3D printed RC plane model designs we could find, and not just for its interesting wings, was this 36” Northern Pike plane. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this came straight from the shelf at a toy store, and it’s incredibly noticeable due to its unconventional wing shape compared to other models.
As well as its sleek model design, the Northern Pike was also designed to be printed in a variety of materials, though some are more recommended than others. One of the most recent updates to the files found here includes the settings for printing with PETG and PLA filament.
With the ability to reach 80-100mph, the Northern Pike model isn’t exactly made for a backyard pastime, and is better suited for serious enthusiasts with plenty of space in which to spread their wings and fly.
A large outdoor space is also recommended due to its impressive gliding capabilities, meaning it will take a long time and fair distance for this model to land safely.
For those of you who want a different size than the standard plane model, or a more lightweight version that also uses less filament, the designer warns against manual scaling to preserve ballast. However, he has also designed this smaller 27” model designed to be printed with a .3mm nozzle.
The filament, materials and print instructions for the smaller model are the same as the 36” version, meaning you can build both with the same technique.
Other videos include the prototype maiden flight of this model, which went less than smoothly, as well as a more successful launch with less force put into the initial throw.
The nose file of this 3D plane is also equipped to hold an optional camera. But as mentioned above, be sure that doing so is legal in your local area, wherever you are in the world.
Supernova RC Plane Models
- Download: Thingiverse
- Designer: Itek
- Price: Free
The Supernova is more of a concept than one particular design, with many creators throwing their hats into the ring to perfect the wing and body shapes to make a truly impressive 3D printed RC plane.
Above you can see one such attempt, though you will need to mirror the print as the files only include one half of the aircraft, so make sure you have enough filament.
Unlike the other examples we’ve seen, the Supernova models are in constant development by a wide range of designers all over the world, altering the wings, shape, weight, layers, filament, and even layer height settings to see what works best. So this is definitely the 3D printed RC plane for those of you who want to throw your hats into the ring and make the model your own.
Some Supernova models have been known to nose dive, some have been equipped with landing gears, and some have reinvented the wheel – so to speak – by using the concept as a base to make some truly impressive planes like those found here.
If you’re handy and are looking for a new project instead of just an end result, then the Supernova is one that’s definitely worth a test at least.
What to Consider Before 3D Printing an RC Plane
Before you begin making your own 3D printed RC plane, there are some things to keep in mind. From using the STL file to make a test print to ensure precise settings, to safety measures while in use, here are a few tips on how to have a safe and fun experience when making and flying your RC plane.
It may be easy to think of 3D printed RC planes as toys, but they are far from it. If in the wrong hands, remote-controlled airborne machines can cause a lot of damage and are often not suitable for youngsters depending on the size and even sharpness of the various 3D printed parts.
RC plane models are also not like RC helicopters or cars in that they can’t be used inside. While some RC aircrafts can be made airborne by throwing them like paper airplanes, many 3D printed planes will need a makeshift runway to take off, like a driveway or a common garden path.
Be Careful and Measure Well
An inch or two in the wrong direction may render your plane incapable of flying. Precision is the difference between a 3D printed RC plane and a lawn ornament, never to be flown. Weight is also a factor, so make sure your plane remains lightweight through any modifications and can feasibly stay airborne.
Know Your Engineering Limits
Of course, 3D printing a remote-controlled aircraft isn’t as simple as attaching an antenna to a standard model. The designs need to be more specific than standard 3D printed toys, as well as being lighter in weight and involving a lot more printed parts and work than standard models.
Each of these designs will require specific modifications to be flight-ready, and extra hardware, electronics, and a little engineering will be required. While many 3D printed projects are open to large-scale modification, flying is a delicate process, so we suggest that you stay within the measurements and settings outlined by the designers, including layer height and filament recommendations.
Fortunately, many of these designs come with instructional assembly videos and YouTube channel links to guide you through, including some flight videos to show the aircraft in action.
3D planes aren’t intrinsically dangerous, but 3D printed RC plane models very much can be if mishandled.
PLA filament in particular makes for some very sharp edges, so models that include wing propellers should be handled with care when in motion. Lacerations are very common with moving parts like this, and you should always make sure your RC plane comes to a complete stop before touching it.
Any printed RC plane will need a lot of power to fly, and you need to make sure your batteries are kept in good condition. A fully charged defective battery can explode.
This could start a fire in your home or garden if the plane is idle. But if in flight, an accident caused by a broken battery could have parts and shrapnel raining from the sky. It will also make the plane impossible to land safely, which is also very dangerous.
Always take good care of your power sources. Know their lifespans and perform checks regularly.
Know the Law
It may be tempting to attach a camera or GoPro to the wing or nose your newly printed plane but remember that these models will then be legally classified as drones. Depending on your state or local jurisdiction’s laws, attaching a recording device to your model could be considered illegal.
Know your local laws and ensure they’re followed when using your RC airplanes as recording devices for any reason. This will help you stay legally covered in the event of a complaint or report.
In most states, any aircraft classified as a drone will require a $5 registration fee if it has a weight of over 0.55lbs (250g) and is used for recreational purposes only. So if you’re considering getting a drone, go for a light drone of under 250 grams. But if you’re elsewhere in the world, you may find the laws are different, so always double check.
Everyone wants to avoid crash landings. Not only will they likely destroy the project you spent hours printing and modifying, but the plane’s body may not be all that gets damaged.
An out-of-control RC plane can hit someone, damage your property, or even break a window if flown at a high enough speed and weight behind it. A particularly bad landing will also leave shards of plastic or even exposed wires lying around.
Of course, crash landings are accidents, but the best way to avoid them is to make sure you read all assembly and usage instructions carefully and have a few test flights in open fields and empty spaces before showing off for a crowd.
RC aircrafts are all the rage with many groups and hobbyists. If you’re unsure about something or want some extra support and advice from enthusiasts and experts, don’t be afraid to hop on a message board or subreddit to ask the community.
It’s always better to seek help than fly blind, especially if you’re a beginner with 3D printing or homemade airplanes in general. There’s no shortage of helpful designers and pilots who’ll happily answer all your questions.
Many designs we talk about here also have direct links to speak to the creators themselves should you have more specific inquiries regarding things like ideal filament for weight or safety tips to reduce danger, so the best person to ask will often be the person from whom you downloaded the model in the first place.
What is the best material to 3D print an RC plane?
3D printed airplanes need to be lightweight for efficient flight and sturdy to ensure the body holds together when in use. Because of this, PLA is the most suitable 3D printing material.
PLA is strong and light, helping reduce weight and help with both speed potential and durability, making it the most ideal filament for 3D printed aircrafts.