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Tantrum puts 168 new twists on the electric screwdriver


June 18, 2013

Composite image of the Flipout Tantrum in its various configurations

Composite image of the Flipout Tantrum in its various configurations

Image Gallery (10 images)

One of the most frustrating parts of DIY projects is when a screw is at just the wrong angle for the screwdriver to reach. It’s even worse when an electric screwdriver with all its bulk is involved. To make things a bit easier, former University of Washington robotics student Joel Townsan of Bellingham, Washington came up with the Flipout Tantrum, an articulated electric screwdriver designed to work in very tight spaces.

Electric drills that can twist from a stick to a pistol configuration are already common, but the Tantrum takes this further by allowing a wide range of angles as well as a head that can be angled independently. In all, the tool can be set into 168 positions.

The Tantrum’s housing is nylon and powder-coated aluminum and has stainless steel and alloy internal parts along with solid-state electronics. Power is transmitted from the electric 7.2-V motor to the hexagonal bit head by way of a gear train. There’s also an LED light attachment, so fiddling with a torch on the job isn't necessary.

Inspired by Townsan’s struggles installing a car stereo, the Tantrum has been under development since 2004. According to Townsan, the version of the Tantrum slated for production is the seventh generation of the development process. The first prototype used acrylic sheets for the housing and plastic gears from a robotics mail order catalog.

“Looking back, it was one of the most ridiculous looking prototypes I've ever built,” says Townsan. “But it still works to this day.”

Winner of the Cool Idea Award from ProtoLabs, Inc., a company that builds custom CNC and injection mold parts, the Tantrum is the object of a Kickstarter campaign running through July 25 to raise funds to complete final product testing, set up assembly operations and begin small-scale production of 2,000 units. The minimum pledge to pre-order a Tantrum is US$130.

The video below introduces the Flipout Tantrum.

Source: Flipout via Kickstarter

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

168 positions? I don't think so. Sounds more to me like baiting. A commercial I heard for a weight loss scheme, the 400 pound woman lost 166 inches. Really?! I don't see how since that is nearly 16 feet.


Looks pretty good. As an electrician and long time screwdriver user I would like to offer the following suggestions. If you are going to have this on your person charged and ready to go, it should be able to replace a whole set. Accurate torque adjustment by electronic control rather than clutches might be nice. Electrically insulated bits. Good bit options and storage.

Daryl McDougall

VoiceofReason - weight loss inches are usually diameter measurements of multiple body parts. arms, legs, waist bust, neck, etc, and then the measurements are repeated, and the difference is the 'inches lost' the same body part will often be measured in several different locations, to increase the amount of 'inches' lost. 168 positions is probably the permutational possibilities of all the different possible bends in all the different possible directions. if the head can turn from horizontal to vertical in 3 places, and spin to five positions, then that's 15 different positions right there, each extra axis of movement multiples the total positions by the previous number of permutations.


The product appears to be very well thought out and I suspect could have mass market appeal. While I fully understand the investment costs to get to this point, I think $130 is far too high for typical spontaneous purchases. I think the cost has to be rethought. Additionally, at a price point of +/-$80, I think a hard shell case is warranted. Soft is convenient but ultimately does not offer the protection a relatively expensive tool should have. (When introducing any new product, always give people reason to be impressed rather than fodder to criticize.)

Overall, I do think this is a winner and will receive my Kickstarter contribution.


I'd actually prefer alkaline batteries to lithium-ion for this application. Alkalines have enough juice for this type of application, and they have much better shelf life than rechargeables, so when you grab the screwdriver after six months on the shelf, it will still work.

Black and Decker makes a nice AA-powered screwdriver/drill that is very handy for light work. I wouldn't build a deck with it, but it rocks for putting together furniture.

Jon A.

If they make one with a cord I'll try it. I have given up on cordless tools they never give me anything like the advertised capabilities and are heavy.


it looks fairly slow, but the reason I wont buy it is because its not an impact...GET WITH THE TIMES.

Derek Howe

I think some mention of actual dimension are in order. For really tight situations I still trust my 40 year old Jemeco supplied set which requires no more than 1.25 " clearance. I would never work on 240 V live circuits if the access was tight to preclude the screw driver slipping and short circuiting or exposing me to electrical shock.

In any case if one needs to work in this kind of situation I would say it is bad design to start with.

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