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Old 17-01-2013, 12:34   #1
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3D Printer on board for making random parts?

One of my hobbies is amateur machining, and I though I could bring my desktop CNC mill on board, it's really too noisy and messy. I'd also be quite limited in what I could make by whatever random metal stock and end mills I happen to have with me.

However, the small 3D printers keep getting better and better. There are a handful of inexpensive ($500 to $1,000) ones that are quite small -- about 12" cubed, less than 20 pounds, and can build plastic objects up to about 6" to 8" cubed. They use rolls of ABS filament, which is a bit like weed wacker line and would be easy to keep on board.

It would be interesting to be able to make little custom parts as needed -- clips for floorboards and cabinet doors, brackets, fairleads, a plug for the hawse pipe on the windlass, little waterproof junction boxes or drip shields, and etc.

Has anyone else gone down this path? I've been thinking it might be an interesting to try reinforcing the ABS objects with epoxy and filler, or fiberglass -- to either make channels in the object to pour or inject the epoxy into, to reinforce the piece internally, or to use the 3D printer to make molds. Or to bring some dyneema line that could be woven through the object, to push the stress to that and use the plastic mostly in compression. I haven't done the math, or even thought this through very far, but I wonder if with careful design and a few techniques like this one could get to the point of being able to print blocks or other line or sail handling parts that are under a higher load than plastic could normally be used for.

I imagine that eventually there could be a library of 'open source' sailing parts that are combinations of 3D printed parts and pieces of galvanized or PVC pipe, or other readily available parts in the hardware stores of the world. With careful enough design, and creative use of commercially available parts, it may even be possible to make something like whisker pole ends or a windvane. Taking this further, I can see how even if someone were to buy a commercial windvane, watermaker, or bilge pump, it may be considered a feature if many of the specialized parts and a rich selection of mounting brackets can be printed on a common 3D printer.

I have a friend that uses his 3D printer to make pieces that he sand casts in bronze. Though very interesting, am not sure it's reasonable to bring the equipment to do that on a random beach.

Anyways, I'm just wondering if other folks have thought this through further or played around with this. The technology is looking inexpensive enough that we may just bring one, with a couple rolls of material, and see what we come up with.
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Old 17-01-2013, 14:43   #2
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

I don't know about the 3D printer, but I think having a miniature mill (plus a small stock of raw material) would be a great way to make money while cruising.
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Old 17-01-2013, 14:50   #3
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Of course, first you need to disassemble the entire boat and scan it with your 3d scanner, in order to build the parts library.

Then you are limited to ABS parts of a fairly small size.

Offhand? I think mail-order ain't dead yet. There's probably a reason why there are very few ABS parts on your boat to begin with, and ABS is also infamous for not sticking to conventional epoxies and adhesives.

A small forge, a sack of coal, don't dismiss the sandcasting too quickly.
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Old 18-01-2013, 16:06   #4
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Personally, I don't think that it is practical at this point. Sure, you can make a part pretty much any shape that you want but it is highly limited in strength. 3D printers have come a long way from where they were a decade ago but they still cannot make replacement parts for most things.

One of the issues with these printers on a boat is going to be reliability. First of all, it is on a boat so corrosion is a major concern. Possibly a bigger concern/annoyance is that most of these printers still need to be used regularly or have significant shutdown and startup work done. This depends on the specific technology used but it can be a real pain if you don't make parts on a very regular basis.

On a cost basis, I don't think that most could justify this. The cost of a seat of a program like Solidworks is a few thousand dollars and then you need the printer. You would also need to keep a pretty good computer onboard to run the software.

I can't think of any times off hand where I broke something and could have made a replacement with a 3D printer like you are talking about. If I had a milling machine aboard, I could have made a few parts. Unless you are thinking of doing something like powdered metal, I can't see it being all that useful.
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Old 18-01-2013, 16:21   #5
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Might be better of with a large inventory of back up parts in a locker labeled "if this stuff breaks we are screwed" .
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Old 18-01-2013, 16:34   #6
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

"On a cost basis, I don't think that most could justify this."
Most can't. Then again, my first laser printer paid for itself very quickly, at $3500 dealer net price. Some of the 3Ds are only 1/3 of that.

And I'm told there are some that use a laser to sinter metal powder, instead of spitting plastic. That ought to be stronger too.

For the spares that one boat might need, I still think the post office is going to win. For now.
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Old 18-01-2013, 16:39   #7
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

I like the idea but think that ABS is not a good material for most spare parts. I believe that there are 3 D printers that work with metal aren't there?
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Old 18-01-2013, 16:41   #8
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

You could build an inventory of spare parts and leave them with some one that can mail them to you when you need them.
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Old 20-01-2013, 18:50   #9
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Yes, there are 3D printers that will do metal parts. Examples are DMLS and SLS both of which start with metal powders. You can even do some forms of stainless such as 17-4. Material wise, I would think that this would be far superior to ABS.

The problem with this is that I am not aware of any machines at a size or price point which would work to have aboard your boat. Most cheap RP machines are not up to this type of work.
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Old 20-01-2013, 19:59   #10
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by klem View Post
Yes, there are 3D printers that will do metal parts. Examples are DMLS and SLS both of which start with metal powders. You can even do some forms of stainless such as 17-4. Material wise, I would think that this would be far superior to ABS.

The problem with this is that I am not aware of any machines at a size or price point which would work to have aboard your boat. Most cheap RP machines are not up to this type of work.
Be really cool when it does though!
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Old 20-01-2013, 20:22   #11
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

From a retired Machinist, it sounds like a fun toy if you can cut SS and aluminum fittings. I use to run sinkers (EDM) and that wold have made my life a whole lot easier. But too late now.

The other thing you have to look at is the power consumption. If your going to be tied up to a dock most of the time to run the thing then you might as well have a small shop. OR a fairly large boat with gensets. I have a 40' boat and barely have room just for the cruising stuff and personals.

But keep the brain gears rolling, you never know.
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Old 31-01-2013, 14:39   #12
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Re: 3D Printer on board for making random parts?

Hello Sailors

I just joined this very nice forum ,longtime reader http://www.cruisersforum.com/images/smilies/smile.gif
Well,we live full time for the last 3 years on our Prout 37 Snowgoose

I am a mechanic and after getting a small lathe on board I also discoverd

6 month ago the world of 3D printing.I am using a Printrbot,since it has a

small footprint,is light and very accurate.I can tell You that we are just

amazed what this think can do,I made a lot of things for the boat allready

my sailor friends love it and for now i print stuff for them.

I just tried to print in NYLON and it looks very strong and will in a few weeks

print my engine -trans. coupling ,since the original is also 4 inch dia Nylon

and since i got two of those ,for the Price off $600 in the store, I will

try my own for a few bucks, Bushings made then with a lathe.

In the future I will build printers -all plastic and stainless for my sailor friends .

Power consumption is about 11 amps and it runs all on 12 volt.

No Noise from the printer, size of product can be ,made 8 by 8 by 8 "

wich is plenty for single peace Items.

I love to be able to make parts in remote places ,emergency make shift parts

and prototypes. You can make a part in plastic ,test it,and then send

the Part Code to a company via email and they 3d Print it for you in

ANY metal you like and shipping it back with in days.

Well the only think is <You have to learn a bit of CAD designing the part

but it is easy using the FREE google Sketchup software.

To run the printer a good laptop is all you need ,MAC or WIN even Linux

and the Software to run the printer is FREE to download, many out there.

For more info google 3d printrbot or 3D printing .

cheers

Peter http://www.cruisersforum.com/images/smilies/smile.gif
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