Plasti-Blades

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E-flite Blade CP fitted with JCS Hobbies Plasti-Blades. The product is cast without colorant as a weight-saving measure but will accept automotive or hobby paints if desired.

Plasti-Blades are aftermarket main rotor blades for the Align T-Rex 450/ E-flite Blade 400 3D, E-flite Blade CP/Walkera Dragonfly/E-Sky Honey Bee and Heli-Max Axe CPv3 electric helicopters. They are produced and marketed by JCS Hobbies of Chico, California, USA.

Cast from high-quality engineering-grade polymer plastic and hand-balanced to within .01 gram, Plasti-Blades are designed both to withstand the impact of boom strikes that would normally damage or destroy the stock wooden blades and to offer better lift and tracking as well.

Prototype blades were computer designed at California State University Chico with the aid of Solidworks, the current state-of-the-art 3-D modeling program used in both the engineering and manufacturing industries. The design was then rendered in plastic with the aid of a Stratasys fused deposition modeler. This device operates in much the same method as a laser printer, but instead of fusing toner to paper, the laser in the FDM solidifies resin in thin layers. This allowed the finished samples to actually be attached to a Blade CP and successfully flown. Any necessary changes could then be reprogrammed into Solidworks, rendered on the FDM and refitted to the helicopter.

Both the product and company were the brainchild of John Sparks, a full-time student majoring in manufacturing at CSU Chico, a onetime Blackhawk helicopter crew chief for the United States Army and a lifelong R/C modeler. Sparks was interested in mastering the exceptionally difficult and touchy operation of the CP, but rapidly grew weary of replacing the fragile stock blades with each minor mishap.

Sparks had the university's resources at his disposal and, with permission, created a number of prototype blades for his personal use. The owner of the HobbyTown USA franchise in Chico saw the prototypes and, in Sparks' words, "about flipped out." It was during that meeting that Sparks decided to market Plasti-Blades to the general public. After six months of testing and development with the help of a tooling shop owned by his polymers professor at CSU Chico, Sparks' JCS Hobbies went into business on March 3rd, 2006. By late April that same year - seven short weeks - JCS was distributing Plasti-Blades via more than eighty hobby shops in the United States and worldwide via the Internet.

Though approximately seven grams heavier than stock owing to plastic temperature, injection pressures and other variables, runtimes on lithium polymer batteries are comparable to stock. Reduction is more pronounced with the stock nickel metal hydride battery. In both cases, users on R/C message boards report better, more vibration-free tracking and more steady hovering thanks to the additional mass. Though not optimized for aerobatic flight, Sparks makes the claim on his webpage to have successfully looped his own Blade while it was fitted with the original flat-bottomed Plasti-Blades. A semi-symmetrical version was introduced in late 2006 for those wishing to perform inverted flight.

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