Help, Modeling A Plane To Be 3D Printed (Solid-works or other)


New member
Hey guys, I need some help with designing a plane in CAD. I was able to model a solid plane model however I want to 3D print it. I have a printer, but I was looking at 3D printing planes online and noticed that they have an intricate inside structure. I know how to create the inside structure however upon further research I read that you cannot simply model the inside of a solid object because cura or any other slicer wont work with that, and there is a special way to model the inside structure. Does anyone have any experience with modeling planes and want to help me or give me tips? Never designed a plane to be printed, however I know how to "cad" pretty well. I should also mention that I am using solidworks, however I don't think it matters, just want a general concept/method on how to do the inside structure. Here is what the outisde of the plane looks like:


New member
Hello there!

Designing the internal structure is not necessarily difficult but it is definitely time consuming. The trick is to design in a way that your printer and slicing software can work with.

Tom Stanton on Youtube has a great video on this that can explain it way better than I could through text. Here's the video:

He uses Fusion360 and Simplify3D in the video but the design principles definitely translate easily. Depending on your slicer you'll have to do some digging through the settings to find what you need to change but you should be able to have success with Cura or Slic3r, no need to buy Simplify3D.


New member
Mr Stanton is the man, another one for planes is Carletto who designed the Gasb jet. video is in the parts links and on youtube. I have printed it but not flown it yet, very strong structure. His parts have top/bottom layers to give solid joints.
His system relies on low infill (1% sometimes) which places the infill down the middle of structures when they are at 45deg on the build plate, very neat and modifiable in the slicer. In the 'thing files' there is a pdf manual on printing and assembly that explains it all, a mine of info in itself.

I use freecad which is a good basic cad program, if you have something better you may be able to do more. I have managed to import and print airfoil wing sections with it. The slicer (I use cura) can be used to decide on wall thickness and infill, good that you can experiment and see what it looks like. Carletto's system is very good and most people would not think to set infill so low but try it and see. For some shapes 'lines' infill works well, on a wing type section they run verticaly providing reinforcement end to end of the wing.


New member
Just to add this to the design options
Gyroid infill
Have just found it and in the latest version of Cura 3.6. Just about to try it on a small part but may work well inside wing sections. Just did a test slice against grid in a Gasb jet wing section and lighter than the grid. Could be a step forward in design and remove the need for the wavy perforated supports ?


Active member
I feel very confident in my CAD skills, as I am licensed in Autodesk. I also have some mild experience in 3d printing planes. Generally, there are two methods you can use to print a plane - design the structure to be wrapped like a balsa build up plane, or you can design the structure into the plane so that when you print it you can simply glue the pieces together in order to fly. Below is an example of the first method - there are 10 identical wing sections that slide onto a carbon fiber spar and then are going to be wrapped. It's a prototype for a solar powered plane.

Medium Solar Plane.JPG

Below are pics of the other methods. These use the nature of slicers to make the wing structures - at each line in the CAD file, the slicer will print walls in the 3d printed part. Thus, if you print at 0% infill, its hollow except for where you designed the struts to be.

Wing Overall.JPG

If you look closely at the image below, you can see where I made some of the areas solid. This way, the printer won't print any internal structure here, so it makes it lighter. Basically, with this method, you design where you want the empty space in the model to be.

Wing Bottom.JPG

Hope this helps!


New member
Just another thought on the Gyroid infill. I tried it on a part and very strong, thsi is basically like lots of helix twists interlocking, think a bunch of drills clumped together. Photos attached of the Gasb wing in Cura. I tried grid at 3% and this at 6% and the gyroid was lighter. Needs Cura 3.6 for this option.