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Old 12-08-2016, 23:51   #1
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3d printers for making small boat parts

I've just spent the morning down at a local science festival. Got excited about 3d printing parts for my boat.

Think of all the neat plastic bits that could be made onboard easily.

Things like sail slides and plastic shackles.

Fancy batslides that are grooved for ball bearings. And customised for each mast section

Batten ends and plastic tensioning luff pockets.

Custom waterproof switchboard panels with embossed labels

Lightweight blocks and sheaves for use with dyneema strops

Plastic caps for staunchions

Fancy plastic dohickys that you can use to bolt stuff around staunchions

Custom v cleats

Plumbing fittings

.... Its really only limited by your imagination, needs and skill with CAD.

Is this realistic, are the plastics they use such as the ABS plastic up to UV and of reasonable strength? Is the power use excessive?

It would just be pretty neat to be able to print your own spare parts..

Thoughts?
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Old 12-08-2016, 23:59   #2
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

I'd like one each of: Visa, Master Card, & American Express please.

As to the strength thing, I wonder if it can work with plastics which have reinforcing fibers in them? They're what's used on some of the better variants of mid-load/strength fittings.
I suppose it's based on what kinds of temp's & such the unit can work with, that would govern it's use with some polymers. And of course that's connected to power draw.
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Old 13-08-2016, 00:07   #3
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

I dont think the cheaper models would work with fibre reinforcing. But it would be possible to design in holes that could have carbon, metal or glass tubes glued in to locally reinforce areas. The bits I saw where pretty cleverly engineered and the flexibility of the meathod of construction means shapes that can't be extruded or cast can be easily made. A lot of the parts had complex honeycomb cores to save weight with high density skins to maximise the strength.

To me this tech seems a game changer. Instead of buying a new fitting we buy the file and print one out.

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Old 13-08-2016, 01:05   #4
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

Did you get a sense of what the raw plastics costs might be like? Though I'm sure that as with most things, they'll come down with time.

Why are you thinking that this will change things so much? Unless you're referring more to smaller boats. As on ones of 10-12m, it seems like the loads on things are high enough so that a whole lot less parts are polymers. Even the small bits.
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Old 13-08-2016, 03:03   #5
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

It looks like around $100 AUD ($75us +-) per KG for ABS plastic. Not sure what sort of wastage there is.

That would make say approx 6 or 7 100mm sheaves, or probably twice that number of block face plates.

Selden use all sorts of plastic components on their blocks and furlers.

Most mainsails have plastic fittings for the batten pockets on the luff.

I am sure with clever design plastics when combined with aluminium, stainless or carbon fibre could be strong enough for many high load applications. We just arent used to thinking outside the box yet.

Most of the proprietary fancy yachting stuff simply isn't availible or is very expensive. I could see a number of open source files for fittings that could be customised and refined so we could make our own parts inbthe future.
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Old 13-08-2016, 03:07   #6
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

Waste depends on what you are printing and the needed support "legs" (which you carve off by hand) and your file's quality.

then there's the inevitable waste of 2 prints before you set up the machine correctly...

If working form known good data files and the printer is the same one as the file was tested on, waste is low.

***********

Strength is adequate for light duty parts. I wouldn't use it to make new fittings for hooking the jib to the forestay on my Vagabond 14.

I have friends with 3D printers. We print up some items used on radio controlled aircraft. Wheel hubs tend to fail in just a couple of landings. But we can make useful electric motor mounts and control system parts for some smaller models.

Embedding other materials in the print requires EXACT placement of EXACT duplicate inserted parts or you'll have a bad print.
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Old 13-08-2016, 04:08   #7
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

^^ Interesting, thanks. I guess most of the RC parts are pretty lightweight, but its disappointing that they are failing so often. The abs plastic is the same as LEGO blocks and they seem pretty robust, but maybe the fact that they are cast makes them stronger.

Embedding would be intersesting to work out. Probably easier to use rods, wire or dyneema and glue them into holes in the printed part afterwards to avoid the problems of trying to print around an object.

The issues of different printers and distortion and warping I hadn't thought of.

It would be interesting to try and design a plastic hank for your dinghy, and see how long it lasts. It might end up more bulky to deal with the loads, or useing some sort of soft shackle to take the bulk of the load with the plastic just acting as a wear plate like this soft snatch block.



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Old 13-08-2016, 06:40   #8
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

I was where you are at early on this year. Summed up, the answer is that 3D printing for the consumer is a long way from producing practical parts for a boat.
It will do nicely for utility parts such as mounting pads for things (I am thinking specifically of a 90 degree mount for a handheld radio attached to a bulkhead) but nothing critical such as sail slides or battens. Nylon is a good material to use.
The learning curve is VERY steep as you have both 3D cad to figure out plus the printer plus the materials.
ALL printers are kits - you don't just buy a printer and go. All printers require playing with even several thousand dollar fully assembled units. You might get into better units when you get to five figure commercial units ...
What 3D printers are great for is as a hobby - if you want to play.
By the way, true fiber reinforced printers are in the 5 figure range (and up) and use proprietary (expensive) plastics. The lower cost chopped fiber materials possibly offer abrasion resistance but no structural strength improvements.
I still believe a 3d printer would be handy to have around as a play thing but I am not prepared to spend the endless hours of trial and error, countless reprints, messing with the printer to get things working etc etc just to produce parts that I could have bought at the chandler.
Oh, if you are into RC stuff (parts) or electronics (housings for projects) etc a 3D printer is probably better than sliced bread
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Old 13-08-2016, 07:15   #9
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

You should look into https://markforged.com. This printer can add carbon fiber to strengthen the parts it's a really cool concept .
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Old 13-08-2016, 09:57   #10
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

Agree is game changer for manufacturing & early adopters but for average cruiser fits in with the video wristwatch I saw at New York World's Fair in 1964. It was available but NOT affordable or simple to use.
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Old 13-08-2016, 10:06   #11
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

I built a few parts for the boat. Mounting handle for a rail mount BBQ . They failed pretty quickly. Just not strong enough. One thing that has pretty cool potential is to design and build on a 3D printer. When you like the part upload the design file to one of the web businesses that can produce it in different materials.
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Old 13-08-2016, 10:39   #12
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

There are many 3D printers on the market from the cheap $200US kit versions that primarily use ABS and PLA on up to the $500K+sintered metal ones that can produce a working rocket engines that NASA has been testing and medical implants.
The hobby models that CAN come fully assembled would be and are great for prototyping virtually anything but keep the practical usage to non structural/ critical items. Knobs, hinges & latches for smaller items.
The problem isn't the plastics used but how they are laid down.
Fused deposition modeling that the hobby printers use is basically like a hot glue gun squirting out a bead(like 12# mono filament line) of plastic, bead after bead, layer after layer until it becomes your finished piece.
The failures most often attributed to 3D printing come from those layers separating.
Folks that have A LOT of experience with them can churn out all manner of quality goodies, even very functional NYLON gears, bushings and the like.
On a boat you have many potential issues.
Power consumption being the first and the HOURS it takes to print a piece.
The plastic involved are actually somewhat hygroscopic and need to be kept DRY until used or the steam created when printing will not allow for good layer adhesion... then there's print speed, temperature, layer height, %of infil and the list goes on.
I love my printers and have fun with them but from a practical standpoint I wouldn't bother keeping one on board.
3D Parts could work in a pinch but the current state of technology would make it impractical on board.
When you are back home for the season get a printer and try it it is fun and not that expensive....depending
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Old 13-08-2016, 11:10   #13
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

If these ever get real cheap, I'm going to get one. Print up doo hickeys with the cheapest material available, in bed the plastic part complete with the runners or flues in refractory cement, (see where this is heading?) when the refractory is set/dried - heat to melt and burn out the plastic model, pour fill with melted aluminium cans, brass or whatever to replace those items you just can't find anywhere. Maybe the industry will come up with a suitable hard wax rod for use in the printers. Could be used to make jewelry using silver or even gold for small items.
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Old 13-08-2016, 11:25   #14
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

Wax for lost wax casting is already available for FDM 3D (the common hobby type)printers as well as for stereolithography(SLA). SLA can make incredibly finely detailed pieces and custom jewelers love it. SLA printers are in the 5k range + or - with FDM printers starting at $200
I think this would be the greatest asset in the old boat , rare pieces area of boating in regards to 3D printing.
Cast metal and glass parts...
Jump in and try it out.
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Old 13-08-2016, 11:39   #15
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Re: 3d printers for making small boat parts

hobbyking.com has a small cheap tabletop 3D printer.
Really small and slow... but at appx $150 US + shipping it lets you experiment with some possibilities.
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