Desktop Plane Model

For this project, I sought to design a desktop plane model with a stand for my dad. My dad is an aviation meteorologist and collects small desktop plane models. I came up with a concept commercial plane design and modeled it with Autodesk Inventor. I also designed a stand which would allow my dad (or other aviation enthusiasts) to adjust the pitch axis of the plane as a fidget desk toy.

Design Moodboard

These are some images and color palettes that I considered when designing my plane model and how its stand could change conformations, specifically an adjustable laptop 2-bar stand.

User Moodboard

This is a moodboard illustrating the day in the life of someone like my dad: the target audience for this project. This is someone with a vested interest in aviation who spends a lot of time at their desk or home office.

Ideation + Design

Before I began modeling the plane desk model in Autodesk Inventor, I spent a lot of time brainstorming concept planes (how organic or realistic would the plane be?) and different stands (how would the stand move?).

Concept Plane Design v.1
Concept Plane Design v.1

In this design, I was really aiming to practice drawing a plane and exploring how I could separate the plane into multiple parts that could be fit together during fabrication. I sketched some tabs which could fit together the fuselage to the wings and so on. Additionally, I noted some characteristics I liked about this fuselage design which I ultimately preserved in my final design.

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Concept Plane Designs v.2 and 3
Concept Plane Designs v.2 and 3

In these concept sketches, I focused on engine placement. I thought incorporating the engine under the plane wing and angling its profile into the back tail pieces would be a sophisticated design. In the end, I decided I wanted this piece to be more of an art-object and less of an accurate plane model, so I omitted the engines from the final design.

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Concept Plane Design v.8
Concept Plane Design v.8

This design is what I based my final model on, with its rounded nose cone, snap-in wing features, and articulated stand. Based on feedback, I had taken inspiration from articulated camera mounts and laptop stands to develop this two-bar, pitch-flexible design. I was really pleased with this because it would lend the final product to be a movable and adjustable desk toy.

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Concept Plane Design v.1
Concept Plane Design v.1

In this design, I was really aiming to practice drawing a plane and exploring how I could separate the plane into multiple parts that could be fit together during fabrication. I sketched some tabs which could fit together the fuselage to the wings and so on. Additionally, I noted some characteristics I liked about this fuselage design which I ultimately preserved in my final design.

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Product Flyer

Here is a flyer I designed advertising the final product: Adjustable Plane Desk Model

Color Variations

Adjustable Stand Movement

Exploded Assembly View

Production Plan

This process involved a lot of digital iterating which is difficult to capture in images, but here I have laid out my thoughts about how I would pursue physically making this object.

To fabricate the plane itself, I will be 3-D printing the fuselage and wing parts. The wings and fuselage have male and female tabs to fit the pieces together. Additionally, to make the custom pieces for the stand (top and bottom sets of bars) I will be laser cutting the patterns out of 1/4" acrylic sheets. For the custom base of the stand, I will also be 3-D printing this piece (including the threads for the according fasteners (18-8 hex drive screws in this rendering).

In this model, I included two mounted bearings (attached to the plane and the base) to give degrees of freedom allowing the pitch to be manipulated. These are low-profile mounted bearings with a 3/4" shaft found on McMaster-Carr. Additionally, the center point of rotation is a linear bearing, also found on McMaster-Carr.

To fabricate something like this myself would cost roughly $100 to 3-D print the parts with a service like Protolabs or the school facilities and take a few days to export. The bearing hardware altogether would cost roughly $50. On top of that I would need to buy shafts and screws. Overall, this would be a fairly expensive project for me to complete on my own, so I would look toward outsourcing the project entirely which would likely be cheaper for a manufacturing company like Protolabs to undertake, especially as they are equipped with much more sophisticated resources like high resolution 3-D printers, injection molding, and CNC routers which are also options for creating this object.