At Bolton School Junior Boys we run a weekly Makerspace Club, aiming to provide pupils with an experience of materials and processes that we can’t cover in the curriculum, as well as trying to expose them to live briefs. During the academic year of 2022/23, our Makerspace Club members and Gifted and Talented pupils in Year 6 developed a product to house sailing instruments on the steering column of a sailing yacht. This product is now in use on a Corby 36, racing yacht, as helmsmen learn the art of pointing their boat to get optimum speed.

The following case study explores how pupils designed the large print using Fusion 360, broke the model down for printing on the Raise 3D E2 3D printer, and how CreateEducation supported our pupils to ensure the product was as fit for purpose as possible.

Sailing Instruments/Background Information

This product started out with the intention of being something to hold a “TicTak RaceMaster” which allows helmsmen to make the most accurate calls for pointing and for tacking a sailing boat when beating. Tacking a sailing boat is making the sailing boat turn through the wind, when sailing towards the wind (beating). The closer the yacht can be to the true wind direction, the less distance it has to sail. This is called pointing the boat, but if the yacht points too high then lots of speed is lost (pinching).

Using a digital RaceMaster helps helmsmen get accurate and stable wind angles, making their job much easier when compared to traditional methods of using a compass. Our product aimed to hold a Raymarine Racemaster, in the centre of the yacht and in an appropriate position to give the helm easy viewing.

Sailing Jargon:

  • Tacking – turning a sailing boat through  the wind
  • Beating – sailing “up wind” or towards the wind
  • Pointing – aiming the boat as close to the wind to get optimum speed, without pinching.
  • Pinching – pointing the boat too high and losing speed

As the product developed, and reached the later stages of the design process, it was requested that the product was also able to hold a GPS monitor to support offshore racing and inshore windward and leeward courses.

Our pupils were extremely excited by this live brief, especially when they realised that their work would be used in extremely dangerous conditions offshore, to help people navigate their way through rough seas!

The Design Process

To start the process, pupils were given a rather rough and ready prototype that the captain had made. All students agreed that they needed to significantly upgrade the aesthetics of this product: a rough wooden object couldn’t be the centrepiece of a fully carbon fibre racing yacht.

We began taking measurements and developing an initial design using Fusion 360. Pupils quickly developed a two-piece design that slotted together with small tabs to help align the product. This splitting of the design was necessary due to the build volume of the Raise3D E2 and the size of the print.

This design was sliced and printed with minimal infill to save on PLA and time, as this print’s only purpose was to ensure our measurements were accurate. As per the brief, pupils needed to ensure that the product was a snug fit to the steering column of the yacht so that there was minimal to no movement when the yacht was being thrown around in a swell or during a quick tack.

Having never seen or been aboard the yacht, this was a tough ask, but one they managed. They trusted in the wooden model and measurements that had been provided, producing a wonderfully fitting prototype.

As the team had now produced a perfectly fitting prototype it was time to work on the design for the RaceMaster, and how this would be connected to the print whilst also now considering a place to house a portable GPS device.

Pupils were constantly trying to balance the strength, the aesthetics of the product and the function (ensuring the product held the Racemaster in an appropriate place).

As you can see above, pupils had developed a relatively straight forward rectangular addition to the base of the print which would hold the Racemaster bracket. It was at the request of the captain that this extrusion was vertical with no additional angle to help the Racemaster face the helmsmen, even if they were stood up.

One member of the team, who was also part of our weekly Sailing Club suggested that we added a design feature that allowed the Racemaster and GPS to be tied down to the print, in case there was an issue in unsettled waters. We added two small tie-down features, either side of the central GPS slot. Initially these were weak and, on testing, they broke with little force. The whole team agreed that the bar structures needed to be much thicker to ensure the strength was increased.

This was an interesting part of the testing phase of the process as students were now starting to investigate other materials or additions as a result of their own testing results.

Being limited in our production methods, we knew we would have to settle for PLA parts with no additions, but it didn’t stop them coming up with alternative approaches that, if this product were to be industrially produced, would have been ideal.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process began, with the two sections of the design filling the build volume of the Raise3D E2. We sliced our model and hit print. The team of young designers spent hours watching the printer print with excitement, but all to have our first failed print…

One evening, we had a power cut at school forcing us to have an issue with the Raise3D E2, and a failed print, with a great deal of wasted material. This is certainly one of the biggest issues we have experienced with 3D printing large and time-consuming prints.

At this point in the year, our time was running out, our printer was experiencing issues and CreateEducation stepped in to save the day! CreateEducation and 3DGBIRE offered to have their experts print the product for us, opening up a whole new realm of opportunities for the product, the sailors and our young designers.

Following many calls back and forth with CreateEducation’s very best slicers and printers, we decided to print the product from ABS. There was great debate over materials and processes to ensure that the product would be strong, hardwearing, salt resistant, UV resistant and ultimately appropriate for the conditions it would be exposed to. The team and I entertained ideas of resin printing and FDM printing to get the best results possible.

Due to the change in material, the finances of this production were now in question as funds were limited and the team was desperate to see the project through. CreateEducation stepped in and offered to bring the project to life, funding a large proportion of the material cost, whilst also having their team print the product for us.

Final Assembly

The print was perfect, split now into four sections: we needed to assemble the models in a way that ensured strength was maintained even at these more vulnerable joints. Two-part epoxy resin and Heinz soup cans came to our aid!

We mixed large amounts of two-tonne strength, epoxy resin that we picked up from a chandlery shop to ensure we had an adhesive that was designed for the environment we were placing our product in. The application of the epoxy was great fun and a new process for our team to learn about.

Due to the setting time of the epoxy and the shape of the product, we used soup cans to prop up and add weight to the product, ensuring a solid bond was achieved at each joint.

Once the product was assembled, a final coat of epoxy was applied to ensure that all areas and joints were well and truly stuck together.

The team then had to break up from school and head off for the summer holidays, leaving me in charge of drilling holes, setting threaded inserts and fixing the RaceMaster bracket. The holes were drilled slightly smaller than necessary before the threaded inserts, inserted with the tip of a soldering iron to ensure the melting and then setting of the ABS around the insert, were added. Another coat of epoxy around the edges of these inserts added to the strength.

The product then headed out to the Irish Sea for an offshore coastal race to Dun Laoghaire lasting a total of 14 hours!

The project has been a huge learning curve for me and my students as we have explored new materials, processes and ideas to ensure a suitable product was produced. The team worked extremely hard, designing and testing their ideas and it was excellent to see their hard work, supported by CreateEducation and 3DGBIRE during the final stage, to ensure the product was brought to life! Well done to all involved and happy sailing to those fortunate enough to benefit from this young team of Makerspace enthusiasts!

If anybody is looking to be involved in similar projects, looking to collaborate, or simply wanting more information on this process, then please do contact me at aw@boltonschool.org.uk or via Twitter @winstanley_mr

  • Aaron Winstanley
  • Co-Ordinator of Apple Distinguished School Status, Bolton School
  • Design and Technology Lead, Bolton School Junior Boys
  • Apple Distinguished Educator
  • Create Education Ambassador
  • Sphero Hero
  • Twitter: @winstanley_mr