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3D Printing Sim Parts

Started by sagrada737, March 20, 2020, 09:27:57 am

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Hello Folks,

I have been doing 3D Printing for over a year now.  I have found 3D Printing to be a useful tool for designing and printing many Sim parts.  I use two Creality 10S Pro 3D printers in my shop, and I have found these 3D printers to serve my needs well.  My recent print projects have been brackets, cases, housings, spacers, and similar small parts.   I made the case for the Servo Controller on my 6dof Motion Platform, and a nice set of 737 cockpit window handles.  The other day, I made some dampeners for the Projector Mounting Board, which is located on top of the Nose Section and rides with the Motion Platform. 

I use two different Solid Modeling applications for my CNC and 3D Printing needs.  One is Fusion 360 and the other is FreeCAD -- both have free licenses.   I typically use FreeCAD for the 3D printing, as it is a bit more simple compared to Fusion 360.  In any case, these solid model CAD programs allow the design and creation of geometry to export as an STL file, that is subsequently used to create the machine code that the 3D printer understands.

The Post Processor that I use is CURA.  CURA takes the STL file and generates the G-Code (3D printer machine code) for the 3D printer.  CURA is free, yet very capable.

The filament types that I use are:  PLA, Carbon Fiber PLA, Nylon, Nylon-CarbonFiber, ABS, PETG, PETG Carbon Fiber, and TPU (flexible filament).   Each of these filaments have their own unique settings requirements for parameters and speed.   For the 737 Window Handles, I used a PLA Carbon Fiber.   The shore hardness of the TPU filaments vary from 10 (soft) to 100 (being very hard).  I used a Shore 40 for the Dampener parts.

Anyway...   Here are a couple of photos showing one of my 3D Printes, and the Dampener part.
For the Dampener part, I will use many of these to encircle the Projector Mounting Board.

Of course, with any technology and tool, there are practical limitations as to what you can do with them.   3D printing is no exception.  However, it is wonderful to have a tool that allows you to manufacture your own parts with quick turn around.


P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.


I absolutely agree. I have only used PLA for my models, but it's fine for most applications. I do have some matt black PLA, which is great for bezels because it looks good straight off the printer. However, PLA takes paint nicely, so you can print with any colour or finish and change it to what you want.

I started several projects to help a friend with his cockpit, then I got carried away. These include:
Steam gauge
Radio stack
Contact breaker
Prop sync indicator

I have found that it takes about three iterations to make the first useful model, then improve from there.


Hey AME,

Good to hear that others are using 3D printing to make Sim parts..   You are quite right about having to do iterations of parts to get it right.   3D printing is very sensitive to the process and material (filament) used to make a part.   As it is often said, "Design the part for 3D printing".  The best thing to do is to work with a specific material, and run some "calibration parts", such as a rectangular part with curves and holes, where you have know dimensions.  Once the part is completed, you can measure the part and determine expansion/contraction characteristics of the material.

However, this is somewhat subjective.   I have found a great deal of dimensional variation based on the design of the part, its orientation on the print bed, printer calibration and accuracy, and difference between Lot Number of material.

I have concluded it is almost impossible to print accurate parts.  This is one reason people get frustrated with 3D printing...  They are asking too much of their low end 3D Printer.  However, if you realize the limitations of 3D printing, you can make very useful parts, and depending on the filament material, you can do "post machining" to achieve the accuracy needed.  For example...  If you need a precision 0.250" hole, you can print it at 0.230" and follow up with a reaming operation to get the 0.250" hole.  This will require consideration of printed Wall Thickness parameters to ensure you have enough material to post machine.

Also, "Bed Adhesion" is critical to achieving consistent, stable printing results.  This is especially the case with PETG and ABS printing.  Special techniques need to be employed to ensure good bed adhesion with these materials.  The considerations go on and on...   I have found it is best to stick to one or two materials and try to master an understanding of how to print them for various kinds of part requirements.

Another very important consideration is the reliability and strength of 3D Printer Filament.  In the photo below I show my three (3) HD Projectors supported by a 3D printed support part.  Each projector weighs about 10 pounds, with three attach points to mount the projector.  I printed these with a PLA Carbon Fiber filament.   However, I do not trust that the part will not delaminate due to "Layer Separation", so I designed these parts to allow for a steel threaded rod to go through each pillar into the projector's mounting holes.  In this way, I have the stability of the large 3D printed part, with the integrity of the steel threaded rod.  Below is a photo of the Projector Support Bracket.


P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.



I 3D print parts as well.  (Tevo Tornado and Anycubic 4MAXPro)  I like the idea of putting the metal rod in the part but also remember that you can control delamination stresses also by the orientation of how you put and print the part on the bed.  If you print those vertically then the layers will be horizontal and there will be increased stress on the part over time.  But if you turn it 90 degrees and print it horizontally you will change the layer direction and the stress on the part considerably, albeit at the cost of having to use a lot of support and probably a lot more time.

There are innumerable combinations and ways to do these things.  One of the things that makes 3D printing fun and .. sometimes .. frustrating.



Those are good points Steve.  When it comes to 3D printing, not only does the design and geometry of the part have to be considered, but as you pointed out, the "orientation" of the part on the print bed.

I considered this with the Projector Support parts.  The main reason I decided to use the metal threaded rod inside the part, was because it added only a dollar to the cost, versus risking the cost of a $600 dollar projector to a 3D print failure.  The take away here is you must always consider the "what ifs" with any application of 3D printing if the part fails.

In actuality, I could have machined a support bracket out of aluminum for this application, but I like the idea of using 3D printing due to its unique flexibility in creating part geometry with this "additive process".

What parts have you made for your Sim with your 3D printer?  Perhaps you could share a few examples here...

P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.


I've not printed anything very impressive for the current simulator.  Just utilitarian items.  Needed a frame for a 9 inch touchscreen, a switch panel and a template for two radios in the TQ pedestal.  Also did a plaque of airspeeds for the panel and a Beech logo for the yoke.  Most useful thing was a iPad mini yoke attachment.

I am just getting started building a new (turboprop King Air) sim and will (hopefully) be printing some new items for it.  This one is going to be close to full size with twin yokes and rudders that are linked.  I picked up an old serial port FAA approved dual control simulator (Precision Flight Controls) on a government auction (cheap) about 3 years ago.  Now that I finally have the room I have moved it from the garage and took it apart and started working on it.  So far, using a small USB Leo Bodnar board I have been able to wire and get the elevators, ailerons and rudders working.  Am working currently on trying to get the brakes to work and will then switch to trying to get the yoke mounted switches to work.

If I can do it, I am planning to 3D print and build a landing gear lever, some additional buttons for the yoke, a new layout for the TQ pedestal and a third G1000 template.  Also some of the overhead instruments and a compass ... but that is down the line.  Once the basics are working, the panel and the structure are next.  I am planning on posting some pics as the project proceeds.  (though I tend to be a lousy photographer)

Right now I have an issue with the Anycubic printer and a jammed extruder that I am trying to solve.  1st problem I have had with that printer.



Hi Steve,

Your KingAir project sounds very interesting.  I remember when I had the opportunity to fly a KingAir 300 while I was living in Japan.  The aircraft had a nice heavy feel to it, but was quite responsive.  Post some pics of what you have.

Sorry to hear about your 3D Printer nozzle clogging problem.   This is quite typical with 3D printers.   The best practice before you print, is to heat your nozzle to its operating temp (say 210 for PLA), then feed about 10 cm of filament through the nozzle to ensure it is feeding properly.   Also, keep you nozzle clean on the outside as well.   

I have found that using a 0.6mm nozzle works well for most all parts I need.  It is easier to keep clean, and faster to print with.   It also works very well with TPU. 

However, with TPU, you really need a "direct feed" setup. Notice in the photo of my 3D printer...  I modified it to become a direct feed configuration.   This works especially well with very stiff filaments like Nylon-Carbon Fiber, or very flexible filaments like TPU (which is like pushing a rope through a tube).  My other 3D printer still has its original Boden Extruder feed.

In fact...   Today I am 3D printing a run of my Projector Dampener parts in TPU.

P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.

Trevor Hale

Mike,  Been 3D Printing for about 3 years now, and would have to say it is the most important tool I have in my workshop for Building.

I have a couple units and one even modified with a removable 5W Laser for Engraving.  Best part is I can switch from Printing to Engraving on the fly.

Glad that you have found the patience for 3D printing.  Its not always as easy as "Load and Print"  Every print presents its own challenges, and I love the fact you have embraced the task for the benefits.

Trevor Hale


Director of Operations
Worldflight Team USA



I agree Trevor...   I find that 3D printing is a very useful tool in my Shop, as long as I keep its limitations in mind.

3D printing does have a learning curve to it.  It is definitely not Plug & Play for making useful parts.   And then there is the CAD/CAM learning curve...
P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.


Agree with both of you.  The Anycubic machine is direct drive and I got it going again.  Took the whole thing apart and there was a little piece of plastic stuck between the gears.  I think it had fallen in, not broken off.  Anyway, back to normal.  I use the Tevo for big pieces and I converted it to a bondtech extruder and an E3DV6 hotend though I have not converted that one to direct drive.

Trevor, really interested to hear about the laser engraver.  I have been thinking about one of those. Did you build it or is it an add on to one of your printers?

I will start posting some pics as it starts to evolve.  Probably under what did you do for your sim today.  Printed a test print of a landing gear setup on the 4MaxPro yesterday once I got it running and it came out pretty good.  Will use it to create a pattern of what I really need.  Am expecting the microswitches later this week.

Having a bear of a time trying to get the differential brakes to work.  May reach out for some help on the site with that one but am planning on trying something else today.

BTW- I had the pleasure of flying right seat in a B200 in the past.  I think your assessment is pretty accurate and it is the nicest airplane I ever had the pleasure of flying.


March 23, 2020, 04:27:44 am #10 Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 04:33:15 am by sagrada737
N4208T...   About the "Differential Braking issue you are having...

How do you have this setup for both hardware and software?
What Sim software are you using?   P3D?

You probably know more than I about FSUIPC, but here are some thoughts...

I have found that you need to have a good margin of "hysteresis" in the FSUIPC calibration.  To start with....   Make sure that you Set the Pot value in Windows JoyStick Calibration so the Slider shows at the center or its Mid Position.  This represents the Brake OFF.   Then...

In FSUIPC...   "Set" that Brakes OFF value in FSUIPC.  Then press the Brake to its full down position, then Set that value in FSUIPC. Then go back and Set the Center Null value in FSUIPC with the Brake slightly depressed -- about 1500 units in FSUIPC.  I have found this to work nicely.

This also might have to do with the mechanical interface between the Potentiometer and whatever gear or belt drive you are using to effect a change in resistance.  Pots don't like a radial load on the shaft, as it can cause erroneous outputs in the resistance value.  If possible, try to support the drive section with bearings, so the Pot is free of mechanical strain.

If you are using a "gear interface" to the Pot, then allow a bit of play between the gears.   Gear and Brackets can misalign such that part of the gear travel can bind the shaft of the Pot, causing erratic output.

Carbon Pots are out...   Use a quality wire-wound potentiometer.

Best wishes on resolving your Braking issue.

P3d v3.x with Sim-Avionics (two computers), FDS MIP, 3-Optoma HD GT180 projection display driven by a single nvidia GTX980.

Trevor Hale

Quote from: n4208t on March 23, 2020, 03:45:22 amTrevor, really interested to hear about the laser engraver.  I have been thinking about one of those. Did you build it or is it an add on to one of your printers?

It's a Chinese Laser I ordered from Banggood.  It has a separate power supply and a driver board that connects to the PWM output of my Part cooler fan on the 3d Printer.  I modified a bracket that allows it to slide on and slide off.

Still having a hack of a time getting the right recipe of paint on the 3d printed parts for the laser to remove the paint.  sometimes I take too much, and sometimes not enough.  But I will get there.  Trial and error.
Thanks for asking.

Trevor Hale


Director of Operations
Worldflight Team USA


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