The plan was simple - to build a 3D-printable enclosure to protect the electronics, and provide strain relief for the video transmitter's antenna. Armattan was nice enough to provide CAD files for the frame, making the job of modelling the machine digitally a whole lot easier. The first step was to measure and model all of the components and place them in a Solidworks assembly.
Then I made an open-ended box to cover the sides of the component stack, with holes cut out for access to the USB port and to allow wiring to the motors and battery. This box also forms half of the sandwich that will eventually hold that antenna solidly in place.
Adding bolt holes, support structure, and a mount for the camera was fairly straightforward. At this point, I was starting to get pretty sick of the modelling shtick, and ready to see how the design looked in real life! So I sent it off to the wizards at Lehigh's Additive Manufacturing Lab to get printed on their Stratasys Objet 30 Pro, which uses a photo-polymer resin and, importantly, a soluble support material. The support material is fairly essential due to the hollow nature of these parts.
Here you can see how the parts came out of the printer, before the support material was removed. Below is the assembly process of the quad-copter - even though I all the parts were carefully dimensioned, it was a pretty tight squeeze to fit all the electronics inside. I also accidentally snapped the lower box-shaped part while attempting to make a bit more space for the battery leads to exit. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this time I remembered to snap a few of them during the assembly. Take a gander below.
Pretty sweet, huh? The design isn't yet ready to be shared with the world, as I need to fix some flaws (namely the lack of venting to cool the video transmitter), but it's been a fun project so far, and a good excuse to sharpen my solid modelling skills and play around with 3D printers. As soon as I find some time, I'll make some upgrades to the design and print out a new revision.
Let me know what you think!