How long until we see 3D printed components in boat building?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Timothy, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. Timothy
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    Timothy Senior Member

    I just came across this new electric car, the UR BEE. made from 3D printed parts and I thought there must be at least a few applications for the technology in boat building.

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  2. Baltic Bandit

    Baltic Bandit Previous Member

  3. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    It will not be long before the whole boat is printed.
  4. kerosene
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    kerosene Senior Member

    Am I the only one who is not so sure about the 3d printing revolution. I mean for small parts and small series production is great and has been for a while already. But making big structural parts? not so sure about that. The machine cost is exponential as the size goes up and the materials are quite limited.
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  5. Baltic Bandit

    Baltic Bandit Previous Member

    Spot On Kero. it will be quite a long time before we see the whole boat printed. That's because 3D Printing (different than CNC) does not lay down structural fibers in any sort of orientation One could argue that the 3DL method of sailmaking is a form of 3D printing, but it is highly specialized and the whole material is not "printed" just the threads.

    But molds at even fairly large scales are getting "3d printed" or at least 3D milled such as the hull plug for a 12' skiff
  6. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member

    I'm doing a project at work.
    There is a direct comparison between an injection molded part and the same part with a "printing" process.
    The injection molding part will be $0.50 each and the printed part (nearly identical but more complicated) will be $13 minimum each.

    There are serious issues of strength, durability, and fit so each part will have to be judged on its own requirements. Each type of printing has its own limitations.

    Like all materials, we will find appropriate parts and applications.

    That car is completely un reasonable from the cost standpoint, and there will be huge costs for the assembly to get a automotive finish. I believe it will be unreasonably heavy also.
  7. Village_Idiot
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    Village_Idiot Senior Member

    There are a number of firms working to build, err, print houses.

    Some companies are already doing it, sort of, by printing various components and assembling them on site by manual labor.

    The real key will likely be having various robots building/printing the structure and printing around one another. Think of the robots as moving 3D printer heads, rather than one huge structure with one printer head printing everything by itself (useful for tiny models).

    I think that eventually 3D printing will open new doors into redesigning the entire package for maximum strength for the least weight, e.g. - perhaps the ribs will just be thickened higher-density portions of the hull at 45 degrees longitudinal to the keel, as a start. Or honeycomb structures. The foam floatation may even be printed rather than poured, and done so in such a way as to leave conduits for wiring/plumbing, etc. Designers will have much more freedom and will be able to make better use of space.
  8. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

    Custom light-weight wiring harnesses could be automated by printing wire and pipe hangers onto the hull and creating matching harnesses in the harness shop. Electrical enclosures could be printed after the wiring is done, sealing them. Generic pumps and valves could have custom manifolds and fittings printed onto them, saving a great deal of customizing on the site.

    The ability to print custom electrical enclosures to fit odd spaces would be quite a boon. A good combination of AI and printing.
  9. Delancey
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    Delancey Junior Member

    CNC machining a female mold for a large power boat.

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  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I bought the very first retail version of the pocket calculator, for nearly $200 bucks, but today it's $10 at Wal-Mart. The same thing will happen with 3D printing.
  11. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member


    Printing pumps has one serious current problem. The resolution of the printed material is not very small - sealing surfaces are out of the question with current technology and designs.

    Wiring sounds interesting but the resistance of current materials would make this a waste of time.

    I really hope this technology will take off but the typical pie in the sky claims ignores the real detailed work required to make something useful.

    Take concrete buildings. Normally structural concrete requires steel reinforcement. I haven't see any discussion of being able to print steel quick enough and sufficient quantities to be anything other than a lab curosity.

    And yes, there is a "printed" steel part sitting on my neighbors desk. Worked fine (almost) for a test part, but completely inappropriate for a production part.

    Mostly I am looking for a discussion of all the requirements and the cost.
  12. jonr
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    jonr Senior Member

    I agree, even large scale 3D printing will be affordable - I'd guess that the machine cost is not exponential or even linear - ie, a 20' wide machine shouldn't cost double a 10' wide one if the primary difference is just in the rails.

    I could imagine a 3D printed HDPE boat with much better control over material thickness (ie, weight and strength) than roto molding or sheets. The slow build speed would allow manual inclusion of non HDPE parts (not so easy with roto molding). And each boat could be customized to the owner specs.

    CNC creation of lost foam male molds should also increase.
  13. JosephT
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    JosephT Senior Member

    I concur with upchurchmr. Beyond this, the technology does have to mature. Cost, quality/reliability advantages have to be clearly proven out before today's savvy customers will embrace it. Until then, the parts will be relegated for cosmetic purposes as they cannot be trusted.

    I recall a bozo wanted to print a 3D hand gun. Gunsmiths warned him not to and figured it may explode in someone's face after just a few shots.

    The polymers used for most of these printers, from what I have read, are pretty low quality and better suited for toys & cosmetic components. Some of the aircraft polymers have to be heated up to 350F for high performance capability. These printers are no where near that (and are also missing fibers...properly aligned fibers at that).
  14. kerosene
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    kerosene Senior Member

    Par I am sure certain things will rapidly get cheaper - and I totally might lack the vision myself. But the current thinking that anything can be printed - and supposedly for comparable price - to me seems unwarranted.

    Naturally for tooling etc. it will be absolutely great but to think that you can 3d print at same cost as other manufacturing processes (large production runs) is foolish imo.

  15. SukiSolo
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    I must have had stuff 3D printed for 17 years or so from 3D files. Right from Sterolithography, printed wax (for lost wax casting) through to structural nylons. Excellent technology for prototype assessment and some very limited run applications. Key is the print resolution. For mass production even say 250 small mouldings an injection manimould wil pay off rather than printing. Too much post finishing for anything commercial except limited apps.

    It may depend on which materials become available in the future. Absolutely invaluable for design validation etc but not really suited to reliable and cheap manufacture. Like the software it is a great tool.
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