For my newfound hobby, drone flying, I have been experimenting with alternative materials that can provide strength and shock resistance while minimizing weight.

Initially, I tried manually 3D-printed mesh structures. They are very light and at first sight, also provide considerable static strength. After few tests, the issue became apparent: They are too rigid, meaning that the typical crash-landing will destroy them.

manually 3D printed mesh used as landing gear

manually 3D printed mesh used as landing gear

They also look like a cool skeleton, don’t they? That kept me thinking… what if I would combine it with something that would provide┬ámechanical resistance to impact and improved plasticity?

Meet Sugru. I’ve been a fan of this multi-use material for years. In its uncured form it’s like a putty, and after ambient-curing for 24hrs, it becomes a strong yet elastic silicon rubber.

Sugru won’t stick very well to a PLA print, but it sticks very well to itself. The idea became to use the mesh structure as an internal structure (or skeleton) for the piece, while the Sugru provides skinning and keeps the PLA filaments together, avoiding breakage.

What follows is a visual sequence of the process to build a drone landing gear using this idea.

Base mesh with gliding top

The sugru is pushed through the mesh to fill up the structure.

We ensure that excess pushed through the other side of the mesh.

Eventually, we form a ‘skin’ that completely covers the mesh and fills all gaps.

 

We use the gluing properties of Sugru to install the landing gear in place.

Behind the yellow “legs” we can also see a red version. These feet are my reference. They are made with a solid aluminum rod inside, covered by Sugru to keep it glued in place.

The not-so-controlled experiment consists in observing which foot material breaks first when using the drone in typical conditions.

So far they are all holding up.

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