Header Image

A Tribute to a Rare Bird

Amazing detail using unfinished FDM and Polyjet parts.

January 1, 2015

CIDEAS goal was to create a 3D model for marketing and trade shows that embodied the same strengths that we strive for as a company. The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was the fastest, furthest flying & most versatile fighter plane of it's day.

The actual Lockheed P-38 also embodies the very same enthusiasm and attention to detail that CIDEAS exudes in each job that passes through it's doors. In 1937 the P-38 Lightning went from a cocktail napkin sketch to production in under 18 months!!!  Over seventy years ago, in an era that didn't have CAD modeling, simulated airflow or structural analysis.  It was a rapid manufacturing, before rapid manufacturing became a catch phrase.

Mike Littrell (the founder and president of CIDEAS) tapped into his retired father Gary, who's willingness, talent and love for designing, created this amazing CAD model in SolidWorks with an unprecedented level of detail. With nearly 500 hours of CAD, no attention to detail was missed, including the levers and switches throughout the cockpit.


Initially a 30" wingspan version was made for the Rapid '07 show and it was a huge hit. Mike felt it needed to be larger & include more materials, so now it boasts a 5+ foot wingspan and nearly 30 lbs of steel grey plastic, acrylic and other materials.  

With over 250 hours of build time, the fuselage landing gear, tail, wings and propellers, were produced utilizing the FDM process. Built in approximately 15 sections for ease of transport, many of the large complex components were built whole by taking advantage of the soluble support structures available only with industrial FDM equipment.

The cockpit was produced using Polyjet due to the 0.0006" layer slice being able to Capture the fine detail of the gauge, levers and buttons. Polyjet was also used to produce the "rubber like" tires. These Tango Black tires offer enough rigidity to maintain the weight of the model, yet are still soft to the touch.

Impressively this model was not finished, once support was removed, these parts were used "as-is" directly off of our printers.

Come see it proudly displayed in CIDEAS office or at any of the trade shows we participate in.

Contact CIDEAS today, to request a quote for your unique project or model at: 847-639-1000.

  • Designed in SolidWorks

    With over 500 hours of CAD work, this impressive model was designed to be built whole or sectioned.

  • Polyjet Cockpit Claims Detail

    The interior is so detailed that Polyjet was enlisted to complete the task. Gauges, controls and details were easily captured without a hitch.

  • Built in FDM at 0.010" layers

    As you can see the layering is visible but not without proving its competence.

  • Donation to NAMII

    CIDEAS built a handful of smaller SLS high detailed P38's for trade shows, one was given as a permanent display to NAMII in Ohio (a government sponsored consortium for additive manufacturing) in 2013. The Wall Street Journal chose our P38 to highlight their article about 3D printing.

"I received the parts this morning, they look GREAT. I assembled the 3D printed parts together and ...ta-da! Working prototype!! You guys are awesome!!!"

M.G. , Craftsman