The 3D-printed patrol boat, called 3Dirigo, was tested in the Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory. (Image Credit: University of Maine)
In 2019, the University of Maine developed the largest 25-foot, 5,000-pound 3D-printed boat, called 3Dirigo. The entire process took over three days and was tested in the Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory, which contains a highly efficient wind machine over a multidirectional wave basin. The team broke three Guinness World Records for this project: “the world’s largest prototype polymer 3D printer, largest solid 3D-printed object, and largest 3D-printed boat.” The objective was to determine if wood and plastic could be combined for 3D printing.
The 3D printer can fabricate 100 feet long x 22 feet wide x 10 feet high objects and prints at 500 pounds per hour. It also develops biobased feedstocks using cellulose collected from wood. Sustainability can be achieved by incorporating wood instead of metal into large-scale 3D printers. Metal is often used when creating large objects due to its strength and rigidity. Wood provides the same parameters at an affordable cost.
Cellulose nanofibers (CNF) allow conventional 3D-printing polymers to be utilized with wood. The tiny fibers found within CNF can be integrated with thermoplastics, which results in a stronger material. CNF is durable, lightweight, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and has thermal exposure parameters similar to glass.
To showcase the 3D printer’s capabilities, UMaine printed a 25-foot patrol boat containing a hull form built by Navatek. It only took 72 hours to print the 5,000-pound patrol boat. The 3D printer, which has additive and precise subtractive manufacturing capabilities, also allows quick prototyping for defense and civilian applications.
“Biobased feedstocks are recyclable and economical, providing competitive advantages for Maine’s manufacturing industries, including boatbuilding. The UMaine Composites Center received $500,000 from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) to form a technology cluster to help Maine boatbuilders explore how large-scale 3D printing using economical, wood-filled plastics can provide the industry with a competitive advantage.” UMaine says in the press release. “The cluster brings together the expertise of UMaine researchers and marine industry leaders to further develop and commercialize 3D printing to benefit boatbuilders in the state. By 3D printing plastics with 50% wood, boat molds and parts can be produced much faster and are more economical than today’s traditional methods.”
This is a huge step for other ambitious projects. Now that 3D printing has entered the spotlight, the focus has shifted toward researching and integrating sustainable materials with certain properties to create larger designs. The U.S. Department of energy rewarded UMaine with a $2.8 million funding to build a more environmentally-friendly technique to 3D print wind turbine blade molds with this massive 3D printer.
Have a story tip? Message me at: http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell