back to article LOHAN lifts skirt on 3D printed parts

There are champagne corks popping today at Special Project Bureau headquarters as we announce we've cut a deal to have our Vulture 2 aircraft hewn from living nylon. Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphic Followers of our audacious Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission will know that we've already …


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  1. Eddie Edwards

    It might well be "cheaper than you might think" but their quote-based pricing sure gives the impression of "if you have to ask, you can't afford it". Any hints for people who are not curious enough to submit a fake quote request?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      The reason that you need a quote based is because they have a number of (different sized) machines, and for low-cost items, they can batch up a number of designs into a single run.

      So you have to take into account the machine size (and hence how much it costs to run it), how long hte build takes, possibly considering other items in the same build, the quantity of nylon powder used for your model, and possibly the time taken to clean the unused powder out of the model afterwards.

      On my desk here, I have a very nice 6inch high chess-piece castle that has an internal spiral staircase going up the inside, and a double helix suspended between that. Sleaning the powder off the helix took a bit of time :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've only had a rough briefing on a desktop 3d printer, but with access to a cheap printer you should be able to get something cool made for £200 and get drunk enough on the change for it not to feel like a waste of money.

      You won't get a spaceship, I'm still in negotiations to try and get a 3d airport-style scanner to work as input.

      Disclaimer: This post is described as going from memory and contains the phrase "get drunk enough" - apply skepticism as required.

  2. EddieD
    Thumb Up

    "and in our case the speed of the process will save us a considerable number of construction hours we can usefully dedicate to other aspects of the project."

    Hopefully discussing it down the pub, and reporting here.

    You may be madder than a treeful of monkeys, but El Reg's space ambitions are truly incredible.

    1. GregC

      Isn't the standard unit of bonkers-ness the box of frogs?

      1. EddieD

        Only if you, yourself, are sane

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


        Sack of badgers?

        1. Monkey Bob

          No no no, it's like ounces, lb & stone.

          16 trees of monkeys to the sack of badgers, 14 sacks of badgers per box of frogs.

          Unless you're talking literally & are experimenting with a blender.

        2. Vic

          > Sack of badgers?

          No. A sack of badgers[1] is an essential ingredient for making a HPC Linux cluster. It therefore cannot be all that mad.


          [1] They need to be dead, of course.

          1. GregC

            Surely if they need to be dead then their relative sanity in life isn't important?

            I think Bob has summed it up nicely, and fully expect the new units to be added to the official lexicon :)

  3. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Black Helicopters

    Don't forget

    ...that you can use standard dylon dyes to colour the SLS after manufacture, so LOHAN can be a realistic skin-tone colour if you so wish, or alternatively can look like a member of the black-aircraft brigade.

    1. Bill Neal
      Black Helicopters


      If LOHAN had gone black then we wouldn't know, would we?

  4. Ellis Birt 1

    Will you be posting the designs on Pirate Bay so everyone with a 3D printer can make one?

    And so Reg Hacks can continue to use that joke!

  5. bRick
    Thumb Up


    Why not build a REPRAP opensource 3d printer instead!?!

    1. Ru

      Printing hollow shapes with a reprap is impractical. Hell, its not really the best thing to do with a proper commercial stratasys device.

      SLS lets you build lightweight thin-shelled complex objects which include voids with structural parts in them without having to make super sure that you don't have too steep an overhang and without having to spend hours glueing bits together airfix-style.

      1. Troy Peterson
        Black Helicopters

        I've built some incredibly thin and light things on my ultimaker ( Also, as you can see on the homepage it has been used to print indoor RC helicopter blades - if it can do that then it can do just about anything required for this project. I might just have to try printing a whole flyable airplane and see what happens.

  6. Ru

    "hours we can usefully dedicate to other aspects of the project"

    Is this SPB-speak for 'a few pints in the local'?

    1. Darryl
      Thumb Up

      Same thought that I had reading that line

      ...except that for me 'a few' was replaced with 'many many'

  7. horsham_sparky


    it has a tendancy to absorb water.. which there will be plenty of in the atmos, around the office, in the back of the el-reg van (or vulturemobile for the lack of a snazzier name)

    Planes flying around normal altitudes are probably OK, but sending up into space? water freezing then expanding inside the nylon? some home nylon bakery + moisture proofing to avoid it all ending in tears (and possibly lots of itty-bitty pieces of plane) might be appropriate, as well as asking the venerable prof Scanlan how high he managed to fly Sulsa!

    Also, a lot of plastics become brittle at low temperatures, would be worth checking what Nylon will do.

    I'm sure you have thought about this of course, and have many answers ready for curious idlers such as myself, I will await the responses with baited breath :-)

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Nylon?

      We're not aware of any hygroscopic problems with the material, but we'll probably coat the aircraft anyway as a precaution.

      Nylon does tend to become a bit more brittle at low temps, but we've looked into it and don't think it'll be a problem for the length of time the Vulture 2 will be at altitude

      1. horsham_sparky

        I thought you would have looked at it :-)

        quick google search shows gives the following useful link

        so you can probably seal it in a chamber for a few days with plenty of dessicant to remove any moisture, then give it a suitable coating to seal it before it absorbs any moisture.

  8. Troy Peterson

    For anyone interested in 3d printing there are a lot of options out there now...

    I have an ultimaker printer that I love ( Also there's reprap (, UP (, various options from Makerbot (, SUMPOD (, and a zillion others...

    Or, if you don't want to buy your own you can get SLS, or FDM 3d printing (or CNC and Laser cutting ) done at either Shapeways (, or Ponoko (, or a zillion others.


    1. Code Monkey
      Thumb Up


      I've had a couple of "off the shelf" bits from Shapeways and they did a very good job indeed.

  9. Mr Young

    "lifts skirt"?

    Are you talking about hovercraft? I sure do hope so

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Banner: "Lohan - Full Coverage"

    Not even a bit of ankle ?

  11. The Indomitable Gall


    Now I'm not normally one to be pedantic (language changes, and all that), but we're talking technical detail here...

    Sintering is a form of printing -- it's an additive process. "Hewing" is carving chunks out of something -- a subtractive process.

    1. VeganVegan

      Wrong preposition?

      Would hew to (as in conform to or adhere to) suit you?


      Your fellow pedant.

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Delighted with the progress on this except....

    Why a facebook link? It a site I will not go anywhere near under any circumstances!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't rise to the bait of the Playmobil Canucks!

    LOHAN is all getting a bit too hi-tech for my liking. The PARIS project was a proper good ol' fashioned string & sealing wax affair, of the kind that made Britain [allegedly] great.

    Using these kind of advanced manufacturing process and these modern materials, It's going to be a lot more difficult to contrapt something which still fails miserably, in a suitably British manner. Have you thought of bringing Prof. Colin Pillinger onto the team, just to make sure?

    [PS. The official unit of madness is the 'balloon']

  14. popper

    whats the actual mission parameters this time ?

    from the prior link back in dec

    "So, you'll be asking yourselves, what happens next?

    Well, we've provided the design team with the mission parameters and technical details of the Vulture 2 rocket motor and on-board camera and tracking kit, and we're leaving it up to them to take it from there."

    so is the mission parameters/plan?, to go to the same stratosphere hight again, beat it , stay there longer.

    go there by weather balloon, then release and fly the "stratosphere plane" for a bit while taking HIGH DEF high profile 1080p video ?

    perhaps you are going to ask Samsung UK office to donate their new "Samsung Stratosphere" :) although that is said to only have a 5.0MP camera, and strip that down to lower the overall mass of the "stratosphere plane" if so you should ask them of they also have a consumer ultraviolet CCD HD cam too as i think that would be a very good thing to add to the mission spec's.

    and how do you intend to remove or at least lessen the massive shaking of the video capture as seen in your last PARIS version and all the other peoples YouTube weather balloon Stratosphere captures before and since ?

    do you have some kind of CCD mounted Super Precision Gyroscope such as this UK made kit you can modify and mount to lessen the camera shakes

    how about as an extra bonus, the Vulture 2 "stratosphere plane" doing and videoing an internal micro "vomit comet" experiment of some kind for giggles and show NASA you can do it cheaper , can it withstand that free fall and recover to be remotely piloted to the pub as it falls/glides so you don't need to travel to find it like last time and loose valuable drinking time if all goes to plan ;)

  15. popper

    whats the specs

    part 2 as you limit the text allowed

    ....and as a final note i hope your not trying to say that the is the basic design as its NOT going to be stable all the way up there in the massively thin Stratosphere and so massive cam shakes all round again, i do hope we see a a second UV cam on-board though, that could provide some interesting shots never seen from the garden shed inventors perspective

  16. popper

    well i didn't realise you had several stories already , reading now

    but it seem to me your calculations are wrong, or perhaps they saw the flow and corrected it ?

    namely, you are firing the rocket in totally the wrong direction and so getting an estimated 1.797 G in the wrong direction as in its gravity assisted thrusting down not up ,Diagonal,or in the horizontal

    plane lessening the thrust if your intent is to clime and not plummet.

    ticked Post anonymously, is it not working ? yes or no.., it says i cant choose the icon, but can i see my make, hmmm.

  17. ReflectOnLight

    My rocket shrinks in the cold

    Given the shrinkage with temperature they are showing in the video, I suggest you study the mounts for internal parts like electronics and rocket motor closely. Coming late to the party I suggest a steam rocket. It won’t give much distance compared to the solid propellant but should make a very nice vapor trail to let you see when the rocket launches from the ground. Put some really good insulation around the payload box and a battery to keep the temperature up. A spring mechanism should be easy to rig to launch when the balloon pops if the payload is suspended by it.

  18. ReflectOnLight

    propelent volume goes up as the cube of smallest dimension, more or less

    Fill your balloon with hydrogen instead of helium. You get 4 times the lift and it’s a bit cheaper. Suspend your payload from one corner so the rocket points up and slightly to the side to miss the payload parachute. Then launch the rocket through the gas when the balloon pops to ignite the hydrogen. Pretty!!!

    A lifting body style rocket might give you more volume for your propellant, r^3 and all that. And you don’t have the problem with wings sticking out creating drag vortexes.

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