This 3D-Printed Glider Uses Water and Soap To Fly Like Bubble Wands

Just don't expect to hop onto it.
Fabienne Lang
Bubble glider.ViralVideoLab/YouTube

A small, 3D-printed glider frame is able to remain airborne after it's been covered in water and detergent thanks to the owner of the YouTube channel ViralVideoLab. The bubble glider is every kid's — and adult's — dream of watching a soapy bubble-covered frame silently whizz through the air. 

Unlike past inventors who tried out their creations on themselves (think: submarine, glider, jetpod), don't get too excited by thinking you can hop onto the glider and simply use water and soap to soar away. The entire frame fits into the palm of a hand, so it's more of a toy than anything else. 

But who knows, an inventor like the late Alexander Graham Bell, who thought of using giant kites to fly, might come up with a human version of the bubble glider. For the time being, though, it's just a fun experiment.

How the bubble glider flies

ViralVideoLab explained their simple process from start to finish in their video posted on YouTube (embedded below). First things first, the frame was 3D-printed. Then, the tail was gently bent. Water and dish soap were mixed into a bowl, the frame was dipped into it, and came out with that familiar bubbly sheen shining between its wings and tail. The moment of truth appeared when the bubble glider was let go — much like you would send a paper plane flying — and it soared quietly away. 

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How do water and dish soap enable a glider to fly, you might ask.

Remember those bubble wands you played with as a kid? It's the same concept. When soap is added to water, the thin film of soap acts as a layer over the bubble, keeping the water bubble safe beneath this layer and slowing down its evaporation process. This way, the bubble lasts longer. 

The open holes that are the wings in the frame of the plastic bubble glider act just like a bubble wand. Once the glider is dipped into the mixture of water and soap, that shiny layer spreads over the frame, just like fabric would, and enables the glider to fly. The glider flies as long as the water takes to evaporate from beneath the layer of soap — just like bubbles pop after a while.

You can even buy the 3D-printed plastic frame on eBay, which would make for a neat toy.

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