RS Components’ SeaQuest: a 3D-printed model boat’s journey of inspiring engineering innovation

RS Components (RS) has released a 10-episode documentary series – titled SeaQuest – featuring members of its DesignSpark engineering community who embarked on a first-of-its-kind challenge to design, test and build a self-guided, 3D-printed model boat and send it on an ocean adventure. The challenge, which was initiated back in the spring of 2018, set the goal of fulfilling RS’ ambition to achieve a world record for the greatest distance travelled by a 3D printed autonomous model boat.

Devised and executed by the company’s DesignSpark team, whose vision was to create a unique and inspirational engineering challenge, the key technology at the heart of the SeaQuest project is 3D printing. The team reached out to the engineering community for help, and to the Mid Thames Model Boat Club located in Berkshire, UK, who agreed to work with RS on this special mission.

After many months of prototyping, in September 2019 the boat was ready to set out on its journey. Pete Wood, Head of Partnerships at DesignSpark, explained: “This project has been all about demonstrating innovation and inspiration within technology and engineering, and we’re delighted with how our 3D-printed boat design turned out. The entire journey has been a real labour of love on the part of everyone involved, which has aroused a spirited determination to develop a vessel capable of setting a world record.

“There have been countless challenges along the way. Water is a powerful, unpredictable substance that can find its way into the smallest hairline crack and short-out electronics. Alongside water damage issues, we had 3D printing fails two days into a three-day print, exploding hulls due to overfilling with expanding foam, not to mention boats catching fire from overheating. The journey has certainly been an amazing roller coaster ride of highs and lows, with a number of prototypes built along the way that have been tested in lakes, out at sea, and in the world’s biggest water test tank at QinetiQ Haslar in the UK. All of this learning contributed to our final model,” he added.

The SeaQuest mission is featured on the RS landing page, and tells the story of how the team designed and tested the boat.

Pete concluded: “As an organisation committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers, we believe it’s important to spearhead initiatives such as SeaQuest, involving engineers and the maker community, to celebrate engineering talent and inspire young people in this exciting area.”

The SeaQuest documentary series is available to watch on YouTube at  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqnIaXrARxXFRLsU2SJsJbinsm5iSUea2, released in short weekly episodes from Wednesday 7 October 2020. The final episode will reveal whether the team achieved the world record it set out to fulfil.

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