This story is part two of MakerBot’s series of design studies, exploring iterative design and the relationship between designers and their tools.You’ve probably taken something apart just to see how it works. Maybe you fixed it, maybe you marveled at the ingenuity of the design, but something about it was fascinating. I had this experience recently with a micro drone. It flies surprisingly well, has a camera, and even some stabilization features. With my curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to take it apart and reverse engineer it to create my own 3D printed design. Using the existing motors, battery, and electronic boards, here’s how I did it:
1. Dismantle and evaluate hardware componentsI began by disassembling the original drone carefully to expose the individual components and learn how they interact within the existing assembly design. Included in the assembly are a main board, a battery, an image board for the camera, and 4 motors for each of the four rotors. Next, I considered what the constraints are going to be in my redesign; there’s a fixed distance between the motors, and the weight of my new design needs to be close to that of the existing design. I planned to maybe alter the location of the ports, the positioning of the boards, the wire routing, the overall structure, and further optimize for durability—because crashing drones is fun.
2. Create blind solids based on components
Using the basic information I had in front of me, I took measurements to design blind solids in CAD as placeholders for what the fixed constraints would be for a new, updated design. Calipers are a must for this. Try to get your dimensions down to at least 100 micrometers—especially at this scale.
3. Sketch new design variations, then input to CAD
With the existing components represented in CAD, I began sketching new variations of the crash-resistant design. Putting the blind solids in CAD helped to explore possibilities with an even better understanding of the spatial relationships.
Among other design decisions, I chose to change the arm structure to improve cable routing and add durability, while creating a more blocky, “kid friendly” hull.