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MakerPlane: An Open Source, 3D-Printed Plane Hopes to Fly by 2015!

By J. Davis, EAA 588164

The goal, in the words of the team:

"The mission of MakerPlane is to create innovative and game-changing aircraft, avionics and related systems, and the transformational manufacturing processes to build them. As a result of this aim, aircraft can be built with consistent, repeatable, and highly accurate processes which create safer flying at lower cost."

As a "maker" myself, I was aware of the open source aircraft project by a group of Canadian pilots and engineers calling themselves the "Maker Group". I had heard that they would display at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and I was looking forward to seeing what they had so far. Their display was in the Innovations Pavilion and consisted of the cabin portion of the fuselage, as well as a working demonstration of the 3D printer on which some of the smaller parts are fabricated.

There was also a display of an open source EFIS panel built with inexpensive and readily available Arduino and Raspberry Pi microprocessor boards.

The Maker team's goal is to present a method for an enterprising maker to build a light-sport plane for a projected cost of around $15,000, including the engine. All the plans and schematics are entirely open source and free, and even the 3D printer and CNC milling machines can be fabricated by the builder from open source plans. The fuselage and structural parts will be made using well-known composite techniques, and smaller parts can be "printed" on a 3D printer.

Another interesting concept is the use of crowd-sourced funding. Team members are hoping that many small donations will get them to their goal of $75,000, to be used for development costs. They have currently received about $6,500. Details of sponsorship levels can be found here. Yours truly (me) has donated $10, and I will have my name written on the first MakerPlane aircraft. Here's hoping that some deeper pockets, possibly corporations, can attain a higher sponsorship level and that the team can reach its goal!

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