Mar. 29, 2015 | By Kira

Tinkerine, Canada’s leading 3D printing company and manufacturers of the Ditto and Litto open-source 3D printer kits, has designed a fun and functional servo-controlled airboat with 120 degrees of rotation as part of an ongoing series of 3D printed vehicles.

The company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, strongly believes that regardless of age, knowledge, or skill level, everyone can be a designer and be creatively involved in the maker community. The “Agent 002” airboat’s materials and design are a perfect example of this belief—it uses everyday materials, simple parts optimized for 3D printing, and total filament cost was only $12.

“My design philosophy is that 3D printing can tie common day-to-day items together, allowing us to quickly create large scale and intricate projects,” Noah Li-Leger of Tinkerine told “When possible we look to readily available items to integrate into our designs. This allows us to build big structures quickly…why re-print a structure that already exists and is so ready available?”

The airboat, for example, uses empty pop cans in place of pontoons. In addition, the foundation of the project is designed around 3D printable connectors that can work with 1/8” dowels and rods, which can be purchased in carbon fibre from a hobby shop, aluminum from your local metal supplier, or even shish kabob sticks from your grocery store—talk about accessibility and versatility.

The boat is powered by a 3D printed duct fan with an integrated servo and remote control known as the Tinkerine Air Engine. “It’s an amazing base for propelling 3D printed projects around the room,” said Li-Leger. For bonus design points, the airboat is topped off with the TinkerBug Shell, which the team created based on the articulated body of an insect. Along with looking sleek and futuristic, the shell hides the batteries and remote control receiver.

Each of the six digital 3D components of the airboat was carefully designed for optimization with 3D printing, making the building process as easy and enjoyable as possible, Li-Leger told us. To manage this, the designers made sure that none of the angles require support structures, and that whenever possible, they do not require infill either. The result is that parts can be printed reliably, quickly, and cheaply—according to Li-Leger, the entire airboat was printed on a Tinkerine Ditto Pro within 12 hours, and cost only $12 in filaments.

The best part about the airboat, however, is that it allows users to experiment regardless of their skill-level. “I like the idea that the Air Engine is not only a fun toy, but a teaching tool that can demonstrate aerodynamics and basic electronics,” said Li-Leger. “The greatest reward is watching other makers build their own projects and add their own creative spin,” said Li-Leger.

In that spirit, students from the Future Leaders at the Telus World of Science took the basis of the 3D printed airboat design and modified it in order to develop an entire airboat competition. Given the flexibility of the everyday materials that can be used, and the fact that the digital models are available for free on Tinkerine U, there is virtually no limit to the kinds of 3D printed vehicles that could be developed from their simple and accessible design.

Students from the Future Leaders and theTelus World of Science with their 3D printed airboat

For a first hand look at the airboat and other 3D printed vehicles, the Tinkerine team will be demonstrating some of their projects at the upcoming Bay Area Maker Faire on May 16th-17th. Or, if you won’t be around, be sure to check out the digital models on Tinkerine U as well as these photos of their series of 3D printed vehicles:



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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