Designing and 3D Printing a Radio Controlled Land Yacht

by Jason King on March 30, 2016

Beach Land YachtMid way though January I decided that I needed a new 3D printing challenge.

Although I’ve always taken on mini challenges, designing and 3D printing some cool stuff, I thought it was time I made myself accountable for a bigger challenge.

I chose to build Daniel Norees amazing OpenRC Formula 1 Car which would involve a fair bit of 3D printing, sourcing electronics, screws and bearings as well as some 3D printing in NinjaFlex.

After the bare minimum of research, in my usual fashion I just did it. No “paralysis by analysis” was going to get in my way so I created the web page, made myself accountable and went for it.

I think it was a success and all in all it went fairly smoothly. I sourced the parts, built the car, broke it, tweaked it, added stability control and designed a new Hammerhead Training Bumper in NinjaFlex.

So far I’ve written 10 blog posts, published 7 YouTube videos and uploaded my bumper design to Thingiverse, so I’ve had a great deal of fun and learned a lot along the way.

Daniel Norees OpenRC F1 car project is awesome and without his excellent design skills and the fact he allows us to freely use his designs, this F1 car build wouldn’t have been possible and the last few months of my life would have been pretty boring in comparison.

Although I’m far from done with this project yet, I thought it’d be good for me to exercise a few design skills and create a whole new design from scratch.

Why a 3D Printed RC Land Yacht?

There’s a whole raft of reasons why I chose to design and build a 3D printable Land Yacht. Here’s a few reasons:

  • I have always loved RC vehicles
  • Land Yachts can be very cheap to make
  • Powered mostly by the wind, they’re cheap to run
  • LiPo batteries, ESCs and motors aren’t required
  • Wheels can be replaced with skates or floats
  • It’s an excuse for me to use OpenSCAD more
  • The design is within my capabilities (I hope)
  • I can make it available freely on Thingiverse
  • You can join in, suggesting ideas and improvements

These are just the reasons which spring to mind but there’s many more. In fact one advantage suggested in my 3D Printing Facebook Group the other day was that it would be a great, cheap project for schools and colleges. To save on costs they wouldn’t even need the RC gear at all, as it’d run by itself in a straight line with no electronics needed!

Some Land Yacht Research

As much as I like to just start a project, ready or not and learn as I go, some initial research is always required. As I sourced much of the OpenRC F1 car electronics from HobbyKing I started by searching their site and found their Bat 1 Land Yacht.

HobbyKing Bat 1 RC YachtI’ve had a good look at the pictures, spare parts, dimensions and the video of it running so that I understand fully how it works and how it’s constructed.

I also looked at a few others to get a feel for the differences and what designs are the most 3D printable.

The important part is that I can take all of this information and visualise in my own mind what my first prototype will look like and how I will create and fit together each part.

It was at this point, when I had a little confidence and had designed the first part in OpenSCAD, that I was happy to take the plunge and make the decision to tell the world what I’m about to do. It’s also at this point that I make myself accountable and there’s no going back.

Although a little scary, I’ve took this approach to a project before and it’s the best way to motivate myself to continue, even when things go badly… and they will go badly at some point.

Starting with an OpenSCAD Wheel

The first part I 3D printed for the F1 car was a wheel, so I thought I’d stick with tradition and make this the first part that I make for the Land Yacht. The trouble is, this time I had to design the thing first.

Land Yacht Wheel OpenSCADI took some inspiration from the F1 car wheel, but my wheel needed to be bigger and as I was to design it in OpenSCAD it was also going to be parametric.

What I mean by “parametric” is for example, I have a variable called “wheelWidth”.

If I change the value of it, the whole design will recalculate and re-render a new wheel using that width.

Initially this means there’s more work in the initial design, but once it’s complete making further tweaks is very easy. This is ideal for a prototype like this, where there’ll be many design iterations.

You can see the wheel design in the picture, taken from within the OpenSCAD Tool. It’ll take the same bearings as the OpenRC F1 car front wheels, but I’ll need to buy some more as I have no intentions of taking apart the F1 car to source parts for this.

The wheel rim has a slight indentation which is where the NinjaFlex tyres will fit. I’m yet to design these but I don’t anticipate any major issues designing these as I’ve designed 3D Printable Tyres before a number of times.

More 3D Printed Parts

If you look at most RC land yacht designs you’ll notice a few long, spindly parts. The rear axle, the boom, the mast and the chassis itself potentially. These parts aren’t great for 3D printing, so for my first prototype at least I intend to use 8mm square cross section wooden dowel.

First RC Land Yacht PartsAs much as I want to make most of this design 3D printable I think the wooden dowel will help my prototyping a lot and all joints and other parts (except the sail maybe) will still be 3D printed where possible.

Whether I keep the dowel as part of the final design is something I’m still unsure about, but it’s cheap, easily available and will work really well.

As you can see, so far I’ve designed and 3D printed a wheel, the rear axle attachment and a wheel nut. I’ll need some M3 8mm countersunk screws too for construction, but again these are easily obtained and you may have some left over from your OpenRC F1 car project like I did.

You’ll also see the bearings too and how one fits into the wheel, but there’s one each side so I guess there’ll be six in total for the three wheels.

The random looking triangle made from wooden dowel and 3D printed joints is my first test to see if I can fit pieces of wooden dowel together using 3D printed joints and to strength test them too. This construction turned out to be quite sturdy and strong enough to go ahead with for the first prototype.

The Design, Prototype and Test Process

So, where next? I plan to 3D print the other two wheels and construct a chassis from the dowel and some 3D printed joints. I’ll neet to brush up on my trigonometry for this. Then I’ll design the steering mechanism and fit it all together to make a rolling chassis.

That’s the plan anyway and I think I’m ready to do that stage now. I can’t wait until I have something to test, even if it’s just a rolling chassis that I have to push along.

There’s still a lot of questions I have though and more will crop up as I continue this process.

Do I try to 3D print the chassis, rear axle, mast and boom? I can try, but the dowel may be a better solution. How will I make the sail? I think 3D printing it may be out of the question, but I’ll have to use some sort of strong, flexible material. What about tire density, hard or soft? I’ll have to experiment with this as I did with the F1 car.

If you wish to follow my progress and suggest answers to these questions then feel free to comment, bookmark my dedicated RC Land Yacht Page, then join my 3D Printing Facebook Group where I’ll publish all of my progress (good and bad) for us to discuss.

Thanks for reading and please Like and Share if you found this interesting.

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