MakerBot’s online model marketplace, Thingiverse, just wrapped up their latest challenge and based on the amount of great entries it looks like they had a tough time picking the winners. The Make It Float Challenge tasked the Thingiverse community to create a 3D printable boat or other floating object. The winners included several cool boat designs, a floating twisty puzzle and a pretty great tool that helps the user calculate how many coins can optimally be carried by the boat that they are designing. Overall the challenge produced a lot of fantastic models and even I would have had a hard time picking my favorite.
But while scrolling through the many great entries that sadly did not win, I stumbled on a familiar face and thought his entry was worth a closer look. I talked about Willem van Dreumel a few weeks ago when I wrote about the walking bug model that he designed for his grandchildren. For the Make it Float Challenge, van Dreumel created a solar powered rowing boat piloted by MakerBot Man and it’s a great little 3D printing project. Not only is it relatively simple to customize and assemble, but it has the added bonus of being educational and ideal for classroom settings. One of my favorite aspects of the summer challenges from Thingiverse are their focus on science and education.
Van Dreumel’s rowboat may look like a simple little toy, but it actually has a lot of great lessons to teach new makers or students. Anyone constructing one will have to familiarize themselves with the concept of buoyancy and the proper balancing required to make a boat float. They would also need to understand how small geared motors work and the mechanics involved in attaching it to the oars that will actually propel the boat. And of course they need to learn how connect the solar panel to the motor, or alternately they can add a small battery pack if they don’t expect the sun to be shining for a while.
The design also opens itself up to plenty of customization options, which is always important for those who are learning how to design working models. While van Dreumel has a figure of MakerBot Man piloting his rowboat, theoretically any similarly jointed figure could be put in his place. So if a student where to make their own rowboat they could insert an action figure, or even scan their own head and fasten it onto a movable figure body.
And, of course, the boat works. Well, it plods along at a nice, even pace that probably isn’t going to take it anywhere very quickly, but it works! Take a look at a video of the rowboat in action:
Van Dreumel designed his rowboat in OpenSCAD, and used two different printers to 3D print the parts. The larger boat components were printed on his Robo3D and some of the smaller, more detailed parts were printed on a Printrbot Simple. In total all of the parts sans MakerBot Man took about 12 hours of 3D printing time. The parts were all designed to require no supports or rafting, and require a very low infill, but the exact settings may need to be tested depending on your printer.
As for MakerBot Man, van Dreumel had to scale him down a bit to fit inside of his rowboat, so he was printed out at a scale of 1.5. He then chopped off his feet (ouch) in order to get him to fit into place properly, and glued his backside to the seat with some epoxy. All of the assembly and part details are on the Thingiverse page, as well as several more videos of van Dreumel’s boat in action.