3D Printed Robotic Foam Dart Launcher (Nerf Gun) Interview with the Maker

Never want to lose a foam dart fight at the office again? Now you don´t have to… Listen to the creator of the robotic foam dart launcher Jesse Kovarovics and fund his Kickstarter project! 


Tell us about your project and who it is for?

My project is the FDL-1. The FDL-1 is a 3D printed robotic foam dart launcher. It’s not you’re typical off the shelf foam dart blaster though, it’s high powered, fully automatic, web enabled, and can even convert between a handheld blaster and a turret. It’s for the big kid in all of us. It’s also for the maker in all of us. The FDL-1 campaign is laid out into tiers based on how complete the kit is. You can get it fully assembled, as a kit that you screw together, or as a pack of electronics, hardware, and printer filament so you can print your own from scratch. That is the tier I want everyone to choose. The FDL-1 will be open source once I get a website up and running to host all the schematics and instructions. The point of the whole campaign is to do it yourself and learn while doing it. If you want to learn some programming but don’t want to put a whole robot together, I’ll print it and put it together for you. If you have a 3D printer, you can print it all from scratch or even tweak the design to make something a little different. The FDL-1 is for nerds like me who love technology and making everything or for anyone who might be interested in robotics but don’t have a fun way to learn a little about it.

“I have the plans and all I have to do is press print to make more so it seemed like a waste to not make a bunch of them.”

How did you come up with this idea and what made you think it was doable?

The FDL-1 came to be almost out of necessity. I started writing code at a really cool company that hands out nerf guns to people on their first day and they get used. I have a few coworkers with some serious arsenals. It gets crazy sometimes. Anyway, I had a few servos from a RC car laying around so I put them on the trigger mechanism of a nerf gun. I built a simple wooden base, slapped the gun on it, and controlled it with the RC controller. Then, my wife got me a 3D printer for Christmas and I realized I could just build the whole thing from scratch. I worked with AutoCAD in a family business for a while, both programming and drafting. I already had experience with CAD and I now write code on a daily basis so all the pieces kinda fell into place. I drafted the whole thing out, printed it, and made changes to it over the course of a year or so. People are always really curious about the FDL-1 and I’ve been able to educate them on how it works. I have the plans and all I have to do is press print to make more so it seemed like a waste to not make a bunch of them.

When, not if;), your Kickstarter campaign is successful, how are you
going to proceed?

After the Kickstarter campaign ends I have a few things to do. I need to build a website for the FDL-1. Nothing too fancy, Just somewhere to house all the FDL-1 files, instructions, and web apps. I need to get a printer farm setup and working smoothly and I need to order all the hardware and electronics to complete the rewards. Once all that is good to go I just need to print, solder, assemble, and ship all the rewards. After all the Kickstarter rewards are shipped, I’ll add a web shop to the FDL-1 site and continue selling them. I will also design accessories like tank treads and cameras and other FDL designs. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on the FDL-1 and I have a number of other FDL designs in my head. The FDL-1 is only the first of its kind.

And if everything goes according to plan, what’s your ultimate vision??

My ultimate vision is to create a handful of FDL designs and a slew of accessories. I also want to see what people can do with it. More than anything I’m just planting a seed and seeing what happens. It’s fascinating. The 3D printing community has been creating 3D printers for over ten years now, I think it’s time that we start using those printers to actually print really cool stuff. 3D printers are a really great way for an individual to prototype a product. I’m personally curious why we couldn’t just print the final product. Is it speed or quality? I’m not sure and that’s what I’d like to find out.


What do you have to say about 3D printing (for people who haven’t seen
its potential)?

I could talk for hours about 3D printing. There’s so much to say about it. My first venture into making things was with wood. There are so many neat tools for woodworking but the big one is the table saw. It’s that one expensive tool that really opens up a lot of possibilities. A 3D printer is exactly that. It’s that one tool that is tough to invest in but once you do, you can do anything. Suddenly you can print things out that broke around the house. You can print toys or containers for toys. You can print tools or jigs for tools. You can print clothes, prosthetic hands, or plane parts. You can even print crazy foam dart launching robots and launch a Kickstarter, all without a needing a huge workshop and a bunch of expensive machines. I really think it is a huge part of the future and we still have a lot to learn about it.

Give us 3 tips you have learnd on your way to other future

Three tips I would give future entrepreneurs/kickstarters/techpreneurs would be to believe in yourself, stay curious, and don’t stop learning, ever. Learn as much as you can about the thing you are the most passionate about then learn more. Learn about something new and apply what you learned about the first thing to that. As long as you are curious about everything around you, you will always have something to learn. I don’t have a computer science degree and I’ve never studied engineering or design. I have a one year degree in audio engineering. When I started working in CAD, I applied things I learned from the audio world. When I started programming, I applied things from the CAD world. Eventually you build up this tool belt of skills that when put together, can create amazing things.


Finally, tell us: why should your project get funded?

I think the FDL-1 project should get funded because it is a project that is both fun and technical. I get the sense that people are curious about robotics and the more technology is a part of the world around us the more curious people will be. We are surrounded by technology every day and the jobs of the future will be more and more technology based. I’d really like to show people that it’s not too hard now to create things yourself and technology isn’t something strange or inaccessible. I think the FDL-1 is an interesting gateway into it. You get to learn buy building and/or printing it and the final product is really cool and usable. It’s perfect for both teenagers and adults. It’s a great project for a single person or a group. There are also an endless number of accessories and add ons that can be created. It’s unique, which I think makes it that much more enjoyable and that much more of a possible learning tool.

“Three tips I would give future entrepreneurs would be to believe in yourself, stay curious, and don’t stop learning, ever.”