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3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat


I've already 3D printer parts for my other boats but now I've decided to build a fully 3D printed tug boat.

"Springer tugs" are a class of cheap easy-to-build push boats based on North American "truckable tugs". Those real tugs are cheap, compact (in order to fit on a truck to haul from job to job).

A "Springer tug" is 455mm long and 200mm wide. Propeller and running gear are somewhat restricted to get close performances. Above deck you can build whatever superstructure you want and you end up with some crazy funny stuff.

There are two types of competition with those simple boats: water polo and "catch me if you can".

For wasserpolo, tugs are equipped with two "arms" to be able to grab/direct a floating ball into the opponent's goal.

That's what it looks like:


Anyway, really simple boats yet very fun to run. And also great recovery boat when speed boats blow over or batteries die in the middle of the pond. My springer has already tens of recoveries (other boats, football, kid's toys... you name it) under her belt.

I decided to 3D print a smaller version ('cause 455x200mm won't fit in an UM2). And small is beautiful !


General view -


General view


Hull interior view - With Hextronix 1700kv BL motor 3D model


Side view


Side view (X-Ray)


Top view

12 hours of printing later :


Took me over an hour to remove Cura'support structures and adjust a few things.

Aside from a few "bugs"/things I overlooked that thing is way too heavy (and ABS is heavier than water which doesn't help).

Hull was brushed with acetone to melt the surface and make it watertight.

Things will be documented on my Microspringer page but I'll keep you posted.

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

I took the hull to the pond yesterday and towed it with my "fullsize" Springer tug:


Looks nice but way too HEAVY. I'm going to make the hull thinner.

And I'm waiting for RC components (receiver, speed controller) ...

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

Nice ! Way quicker than my 12hr print ! ;)

We also have one of these DIY vacuum-forming rigs lying around at my RC club's workshop. Not sure it's still in working condition though.

I've already been on your website a few times, looking at your barge kit. A little too small for a standard springer. We also have CNC cutting machines and I'm just done cutting the main parts for a 1200x40mm barge for my springer (out of 4.5mm plywood).

But once my Microspringer is up & running (190x85mm), your 1:50 barge might be a nice match !

And your Stan Tug 1606 1:50 looks sweet. :)

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat


Just a few updates (including stuff I forgot to post here).

Build log 2014-12-07 : Improved hull, RC equipment

Hull went through an aggressive diet. Walls and bottom were thinned. All in all approximately 30% shaved off.

Minor issues (clearance for the motor, ...) were fixed. Printing hull Rev.30 took a little under ten hours (overnight, as usual).

Print included an integral servo mount (ie: printed right with/within the hull) but it was too skinny and broke off too easily. I then decided to print another strong servo mount and "acetone-welded" it in place.


Hull and deck (Rev.31) - 3D model of what was printed


Superstructure design - More design required; getting closer


Side view - Redesigned/strong motor mount


3D printed hull with RC equipment - Tests in bathtub were promising


Underside - 3D printed push knees and rudder arm


Deck and push knees - Mock installation

RC components are installed (with hook & loop / Velcro). Servo mount is a good fit.

RX, ESC, motor and ESC all work great. Even on a single LiPo cell motor seems a little fast but ESC allows smooth starts and has linear throttle response. Low pitch of the prop also helps a lot.

Motor was soldered to ESC to save weight and limit clutter. Servo plug on ESC was replaced with a 1.25mm Molex Picoblade one, to fit on the RX.

Rudder will be redesigned to get a little more surface (towards the propeller) although steering is already very decent.

Weight so far (including all propulsion, RC components, battery, push kees, deck, beam ...) is 149g (5.25oz). Previous hull (barebone) was 126g !

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

Build log 2014-12-13 : Deck and wheelhouse

Wheelhouse was printed. Maybe I'll add working navigation lights. Depends on the overall weight.

Lots of work to do on the wheelhouse (sanding ...).


Basic wheelhouse -


Deck with bollards - Bollards are strenghened with 1mm piano wire


Deck (underside) - Piano wire will get a dab of methyl-methacrylate glue

Simple cross bollards were printed. They were drilled to get some extra 1mm piano wire through.

Small pieces of ABS were "acetone-welded" under the deck where the bollards go.

Piano wire protrudes under the deck and will get a bit of metyl-methacrylate glue.

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

Build log 2014-12-17 : Locking tabs


Locking tabs - Bow end first


Locking tabs - Locks at the stern


Tabs installed - Tabs acetone-welded in place


Wheelhouse secured - Snaps right in place

Those tabs work surprisingly well (first attempt!) and positively lock the main hatch in place while still keeping everything easily (no tools) removable to change the battery.

Push knees were also "welded" in place. I've printed an exhaust pipe. I'm still unsure whether I'll install the bulwark or not. Time for MOAR SANDING.

Then maybe LED navigation lights (powering them from a CR2032 battery although 3V might be a little on the low side for white LEDs ...) and brass railings for the push knees and the wheelhouse.

Then a lot of prep work before painting !

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Posted · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

Build log 2014-12-30 : Handrails, paint & fenders

The first Microspringer is now almost complete.


Truckable tug - Inspiration for the color scheme


Shabby paint job - TX in the background for scale


Fenders - 3mm rubber cord all round - Tyre inner tube on push-knees


Handrails - 1.00 and 1.50mm brass wire

Rudder was enlarged giving a little bit better maneuverability (trials in the bathtub !).

Just have to adjust a few things (paint the exhaust, add a couple stickers or lettering ...).

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Posted (edited) · 3D-printed Microspringer RC tug boat

Hi folks ! Happy new year by the way !

I managed to launch both my latest RC boats this past Sunday. And one of them of course was this Microspringer.


Microspringer on the pond


Microspringer on the pond

Here's a short video of the thing weezing around (and even doing some push work !).


Edited by Guest

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