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AMS Spring 2023

Meet the ‘Agent 022’, Tinkerine’s 3D Printed RC Airboat

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airboat8Three dimensional printing and radio control have been converging to create totally custom, one-off RC vehicles. We’ve seen this with projects such as the Open RC project, as well as many other unique creations that have come about thanks to 3D printing technology.

Now, Canadian based 3D printer manufacturer, Tinkerine, has created what we believe is the first ever 3D printed RC airboat, thanks to the company’s industrial designer, Noah Li-Leger.

Agent 022 is the name of this creative masterpiece, and the intentions behind it are very inspiring. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with representatives from Tinkerine over the course of the past year at various trade shows, and I’ve learned that they want to bring 3D printing into the education systems throughout the world. To do so, they are very keen on creating designs for useful products that virtually anyone, including students of any age, can make by combining 3D printing with other products that can easily be obtained.

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“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,” Li-Leger tells 3DPrint.com. “We have focussed our energy on creating multi-use 3D prints that can be combined in many different ways to create a variety structures. When possible we look to readily available items to integrate into our designs. This allows us to build big structures quickly. For example, the pontoons on the air boat are empty pop cans – why re-print a structure that already exists and is so readily available.”

The airboats, are powered by what Li-Leger refers to as the “Tinkerine Air Engine” — a 3D printed duct fan with an integrated servo and remote control.

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“It is an amazing base for propelling 3D printed projects around the room,” Li-Leger tells us. “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.”

airboat3Like with their various other Tinkerine projects, the body is constructed with 3D printed connectors that work well with 1/8″ dowels and rods which can be obtained online or offline at hardware stores, hobby shops and metal suppliers. The rods can be purchased in a range of different materials, including carbon fiber, aluminum, and even shish kabob sticks. “The connectors work universally, so the sky is the limit with what you can create,” says Li-Leger. “The greatest reward is watching other Makers build their own projects and add their own creative spin on our designs.”

In the airboat’s case, Li-Leger decided to use empty soda cans, which act as pontoons for the boat. Filled with air, they have no problem holding the rest of the boat above water. The top of the boat consists of what is called the “TinkerBug Shell”. It looks like an insect but is used to aesthetically house the batteries and remote control receiver onboard the vessel. The entire design for the boat has been geared toward making it perfect for 3D printing.

“We make sure that all of the angles do not require support structure, and that whenever possible they do not require any infill,” Li-Leger tells us. “The result is parts that can be printed very reliable and quickly. This means the Air Boat can be made surprisingly quickly. “

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Tinkerine 3D printed the parts for the airboat on their Ditto Pro 3D printer in just 12 hours time. The total cost of filament was just $12.00. As a test to see just how students and teachers would like this unique concept, Tinkerine worked with Future Leaders at the Telus World of Science to allow for them to test this creation out. The results were quite phenomenal.

Students were first challenged to see if their airboats would float, before trying to maneuver them around in the water and through strong currents. Some of the students were able to accomplish all of this, surprising even themselves.

airboat7This is just one of the many different projects that Tinkerine has been working on, one which certainly provides for a fun, interactive, yet very educational experience for whoever decides to try to make their own. This coming May 16-17th, Li-Leger will be demonstrating some of Tinkerine’s other projects at the upcoming Bay Area Maker Fair. So if you happen to visit, be sure to check them out.

What do you think about this 3D printed airboat. Would you like to attempt to create your own? You can download the files as well as the instruction manual via the Tinkerine website. You can also check out some of the company’s other projects here. Discuss in the 3D Printed Airboat forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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