Digital Kit Design » The Songbird Ornithopter

I created a lot of different insect ornithopters, but birds always eluded me. Over the years I’ve designed many different attempts at bird wings for one, but nothing seemed to be just the right combination of functional and aesthetically pleasing. Some used photoetch, some laser-cut parts, others solid sculpts.

Finally I came up with an approach with photoetch or cardstock allowing the feathers to overlap. The layers of feather > bracket > feather > bracket made a long strip of feather climbing upward like stairs with the in-between brackets allowing the feathers to swivel without rubbing against one another. I had tested this with card stock which turned out beautifully and intended to eventually create a whole resin/photoetch brass kit design with it by hand as usual. But after some time I ended up creating the design in 3D using cardstock for the feathers.

What is nice about the utilization of the cardstock is that it’s cheap. You can simply use a Cricut-like machine to cut another using the vector art files I supplied, or cut one by hand. With photoetch, if you accidentally bent one of the brass feathers, you’d never get it perfectly flat again. You can also paint the cardstock easier without worry of the paint flaking off as is common when painting photoetch brass. The assembled feather strip fits in a slot between the main solid wing portion

This design, like the Bumble’thopter, uses elastic tension to hold the wings and tail into whatever position you desire. I created a full interior reusing some of the Bumble’thopter parts as well as an extendable rear landing leg. Landing legs were designed to mimic bird legs in-flight and on the ground.

feather test

Basing the design on small songbirds gives the customers building the kit many many real-life color-scheme options if they don’t want to create their own pattern. I also included a modified head design with a triangular crest on top much like a cardinal or blue jay.

1/24 scale printed and cleaned parts, ready for primer.

The Songbird was designed as a digital kit using Autodesk Fusion 360. I designed and optimized this kit to be resin-printed in 1/35 scale to match my other hand-sculpted Steampunk subs and ornithopters, however I printed my copy to build in 1/24 scale to see how well it worked when scaled up. I always consider the intended scale/print-size when designing to maximize what can be done to make sure all of the details are crisp and not too thin or thick visually.

The Songbird was available to my upper-tier FichtenFoo Patreon subscribers as part of my monthly digital-kit drops during August 2021. After that month, the files were added to the Industria Mechanika shop as a retail-priced digital kit product. You can purchase the digital-kit files complete with instructions and print your own Songbird Ornithopter here.

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