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Old 25-05-2020, 08:19   #1
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Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

I'm thinking that a small 3D printer is pretty much "essential" in my engineering mind. I'm curious if anyone has managed to adapt one to run solely on 12v power.

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Old 25-05-2020, 08:38   #2
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

If it is "essential" (?) to you, then I am sure a small inverter will power it. For less effort, and maybe even less money, than adapting the existing power supply.
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Old 25-05-2020, 08:49   #3
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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If it is "essential" (?) to you, then I am sure a small inverter will power it. For less effort, and maybe even less money, than adapting the existing power supply.
Actually, 3D printers almost always run completely on DC voltage for their operations. They only use power supplies to convert AC to DC because DC is not usually available. So the idea of inverting just to convert back seems laughable to me.

However it seems few people have done this. So before I reinvented the wheel (I've built 3 different 3D printers from scratch, but never from a solely 12v viewpoint) I wanted to see if someone else had already done the math.

IE. What would the required wattage be? Which printer models run only on 12v and not 24v? What are things to consider when printing on a boat, like dampening motion of a printer while the boat is moving. Etc.
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Old 25-05-2020, 09:57   #4
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

How practical is it to use 3D printers to actually create boat parts?

I love the idea, and I can see this being the "future" in space and maybe for commercial container ships and tankers. Trying to assess the practicality on sailboats. Any experience?
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Old 25-05-2020, 10:49   #5
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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How practical is it to use 3D printers to actually create boat parts?

I love the idea, and I can see this being the "future" in space and maybe for commercial container ships and tankers. Trying to assess the practicality on sailboats. Any experience?

I’ve had friends that cave diving would print up some little clips etc to hold things, but as far as any kind of boat part, unless it’s a some kind of little plastic clip, I’m not seeing it, not from consumer printers anyway.
Way beyond any of our means but GE is printing parts for turbine engines, so it’s definitely possible, but I bet that printer cost Millions at least and it’s not going on a boat.

One day hulls will be printed, I don’t know when and I’d expect other things first, but it’s coming.
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Old 25-05-2020, 10:59   #6
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

Actually, hulls have been printed. At least one; I read the article maybe a year ago.

My questions are (1) materials, and (2) strength of the parts produced.

Many of the parts we use on a boat are cast metal or molded plastic. Even if you had a printer which could print stainless steel or marelon, building it up in layers seems to me (non-engineer!) like building in weak points. The material not only has to stand up to whatever stresses the component is exposed to, but also strongly adhere to the previous layer.

Then again, I don't really follow 3D printing technology. Have these things been overcome?
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Old 25-05-2020, 12:48   #7
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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How practical is it to use 3D printers to actually create boat parts?
I can make any plastic part you can think of. I have also made some plastic parts that temporarily substituted for metal ones. I've been in 3D printing and design for 10 years. One thing holds true, you never realize what you can make until the need arises.

Also remember you're not just dealing with "boat parts", there are a lot of "personal goods" that can be fixed.

Just some thoughts I can make hinges for cabinets, hooks, watertight tubing connectors, brackets for mounting things, corner braces, mounts for electronics, tool handles, toys if you have a kid onboard, artwork to sell. Really your imagination is the biggest limitation.

I even designed and made a block & Tackle that was strong enough to lift myself off the ground with. Just using skate bearings and basic hardware store bolts. https://www.youmagine.com/designs/bl...s-550-paracord

A few of my other designs: https://www.youmagine.com/lasivian/designs and https://www.thingiverse.com/lasivian/designs
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Old 25-05-2020, 12:53   #8
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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Many of the parts we use on a boat are cast metal or molded plastic. Even if you had a printer which could print stainless steel or marelon, building it up in layers seems to me (non-engineer!) like building in weak points. The material not only has to stand up to whatever stresses the component is exposed to, but also strongly adhere to the previous layer.

Then again, I don't really follow 3D printing technology. Have these things been overcome?
Printed parts are almost always superior to molded ones. Each layer is fusing to the layer beneath it, creating an intricate network of tiny fibers. A molded piece that can be broken with your bare hands you can't break with a hammer if printed.

I can also print in a variety of materials including ABS, PLA, PETG, Carbon Fiber, Polycarbonate, and Nylon.

While metal can't be printed, you could replace a metal part by making a plastic one much larger and bulkier to temporaily replace it.

Once when I worked at the Wood Technology Center in Seattle we needed a metal spacer for a shaper in a specific thickness. We ordered the part but it was 2 weeks shipping. I printed a heavy plastic washer and the skeptical instructors tried it. It worked fine until the metal washer came in.
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Old 25-05-2020, 13:06   #9
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

Another interesting thing, if you are anywhere where someone has a metal foundry you can give them a printed part, and they can use that to cast you a metal part from it. Just like lost wax casting.
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Old 25-05-2020, 13:12   #10
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

Does anyone know of the consequences (if any) of using a 3d printer on a moving boat? Iím thinking at anchor, although things can move a bit at dock also.
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Old 25-05-2020, 13:18   #11
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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Does anyone know of the consequences (if any) of using a 3d printer on a moving boat? I’m thinking at anchor, although things can move a bit at dock also.
I have to admit i've given that some thought. You would not want any shake to be allowed between the nozzle tip and the build surface. Usually smaller printer designs are overbuilt for rigidity, so that's probably not a huge factor. (This is really the only two points that have to be in alignment. The printer itself could be tumbling in a circle in space and still print just fine. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/f...rinting-v3.pdf )

Tho I would probably mount it on some rubber standoffs to decrease sudden shocks, and wouldn't want to use it in rough seas. Also I would not go any smaller than a 0.5mm nozzle, and probably more towards a 0.7mm, just because some imperfection is likely to be inevitable on a boat.

Of course this is just my 2 cents as an engineer. I have yet to actually try it in practice.
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Old 25-05-2020, 13:45   #12
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

Whilst not at a professional level, I have had a hobbyist 3D printer in my home workshop for several years but only to use in my hobbies. In my experience, printed components aren’t anywhere near as strong as injection moulded bits. And whilst there are a range of different filaments that one can get, many of them are not suitable for printing in a moisture-rich environment (nylon for example).

There are of course printers that print in stainless and titanium and I’ve read that printed parts in such materials have a strength ratio to forged components of about 80% (happy to be corrected here). But these machines are very costly. I believe they have one on the ISS to print new components from files sent up by radio. That’s pretty cool.

The only parts I print for the boat, as others have said before, are things like clips, mounts for equipment, spacers, that sort of thing which I mostly print in PLA. I built my own fridge drawers with most of the lock components printed at home but they are all low-stress parts. The great thing is that pretty much whatever you can design on CAD you can print, even stuff for which there is no physical engineering solution. One can get really creative. They’re also great for prototyping.

But I can’t imagine that I’d ever need a 3D printer on my boat.
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Old 25-05-2020, 14:27   #13
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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Originally Posted by Lasivian View Post
Printed parts are almost always superior to molded ones. Each layer is fusing to the layer beneath it, creating an intricate network of tiny fibers. A molded piece that can be broken with your bare hands you can't break with a hammer if printed.

I can also print in a variety of materials including ABS, PLA, PETG, Carbon Fiber, Polycarbonate, and Nylon.

While metal can't be printed, you could replace a metal part by making a plastic one much larger and bulkier to temporaily replace it.
Wow. I guess I had some misconceptions. That's amazing.

For me, I can probably never justify learning to design the parts, never mind the huge learning curve involved in getting started. But it does sound like SUCH a cool hobby!
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Old 25-05-2020, 15:14   #14
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

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Whilst not at a professional level, I have had a hobbyist 3D printer in my home workshop for several years but only to use in my hobbies. In my experience, printed components arenít anywhere near as strong as injection moulded bits. And whilst there are a range of different filaments that one can get, many of them are not suitable for printing in a moisture-rich environment (nylon for example).

But I canít imagine that Iíd ever need a 3D printer on my boat.
Don't take my word for it. Take an injection molded part and print a similar part with the same dimensions at 25% infill with 4 shells. Then try to break both.

You're right to say the environment is not ideal. But usually moisure heavy environments damage the plastic while it's being stored. Storing filament of any type in a vacuum bag will greatly prolong it's life. Also it can be warmed again to remove the moisture. I have rarely had this happen to me because I don't keep my filament for very long, instead I use it up making art or other things to sell.

You can also enclose the printer in it's own plexiglass box. This helps a great deal in humid environments.

Tho really the biggest moneymaker by far for me has been these: https://pinshape.com/items/5205-3d-printed-claws They're custom sized finger claws that kinky folks use for scratching other people. I've made about $10,000 just selling those.

So, yeah, to me it's essential.
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Old 25-05-2020, 15:58   #15
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Re: Does anyone have a 3D printer on their boat?

I have a monoprice mini that I have though about bringing on the boat....uses a 12v 'brick" - easy to power straight from the battery, but in my case (lidepo4) I could run it from the victron orion smart dc-dc in power supply mode at the voltage I set....

It sits unused as I have other printers with larger print beds and better features, but the mini does a good job for what it is. They can handle movement just fine, but not jarring movement - rough anchorage OK, but underway I'd probably hold off on printing.
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