Feb 8, 2016 | By Alec

Image credit: Milan Rinck

It’s only natural that larger 3D printers and ongoing material innovations will lead to more outrageous and surprising 3D printing projects, but we never even imagined that the latest project by 3D printing expert Jasper Menger would be possible. The Dutch innovator, who unveiled his Robot-Arm 3D Printer in March of 2015, recently joined forces with entrepreneur Filip Jonker to develop a 20-feet plastic submarine that can carry up to two people. Though development is still underway, they see it as a perfect military tool and for use at oil drilling platforms.

As you might recall, the very impressive Robot-Arm 3D Printer first saw the light of day at the Rapidpro convention in the Netherlands in March 2015. Developed by Jasper Menger, it’s a truly huge robotic arm contraption with a high quality extrusion system attached to the end of it. Last year, it had a maximum build platform of 8 x 3 x 2 meters and, thanks to its superior software and robotic movement configuration, was capable of realizing consistent quality in very complex patterns. Though the minimum layer size was just 1 millimeter, the quality was reportedly almost comparable to that of injection-molded fiberglass/PP products. Thanks to this machine, Menger’s star has been rising. “If someone need to 3D print something large with a robot construction, they all end up with me. Google points straight to me,” he recently said.

Jasper Menger.

Last year, it was already clear that Menger was envisioning some truly innovative applications for his 3D printer, and he has definitely found that in this collaboration with Filip Jonker. Though the robotic arm 3D printer had already been used for 3D printing works of art, furniture and factory floor components, nothing compares to an actual submarine. Jonker’s company Ortega Submersibles is focusing on the development of affordable submersible vehicles for one or two divers which can, for instance, be used for reconnaissance or repairs. A low cost technology that can easily prototype vehicles of up to a few meters in size is therefore obviously a perfect tool.

The team is currently envisioning a six-meter long vehicle (or about 20 feet), that will be made from 0.9 millimeter layers of a glass-fiber polypropylene composite filament. That’s obviously impressive in its own right, but the real question is: can it withstand the pressure when submerged? Well, they believe it could actually be submerged a few meters, but the layer bonds (the weakest part of any print) will be too weak to go any deeper. However, Jonker is all about material exploration – having previously crossed the North Sea in a cardboard boat to demonstrate the material’s durability.

The Robot-Arm 3D printer working on another project.

And Jonker feels that the time is simply right for small underwater vehicles that can reach high speeds – perfect for the military, but also for various applications in harbors and at oil drilling platforms. “A submarine. Why not?” Menger said of the project. While the first in the world, he argues that it fits into a 3D printing trend. “They’re working on a 3D printed car in the US, on a home in China, and we are building a 3D printed ship.” But regardless of whether or not a 3D printed submarine can be used underwater, it probably never well. Jonker said he primarily chose 3D printing for its easy and quick prototyping power, and the ability to change designs halfway through the building process. A 3D printed prototype is therefore expected to be followed by a mold for high production volumes.

Nonetheless, development is proceeding at a high pace. Menger has estimated that it takes about 50 hours to 3D print a 20-feet long ship, simply using a CAD drawing as any other 3D printer. Leaving the machine running over night, the first iteration is already finished. To print, his Robot-Arm 3D Printer uses granules of carbon fiber-filled PP, which need to be replenished every couple of hours for projects of this scale. The finished results still have a characteristic grainy surface with visible layers, but should look smooth after sanding. “Of course the hull is waterproof,” Menger says.

What’s more, this project is part of a larger, ambitious plan to make 3D printing more important for the Dutch manufacturing sector. The 3D printer itself is housed in the Merwe-Vierhavensgebied of Rotterdam, an old factory compound with lots of empty buildings. But the SuGu-club, which houses the 3D printer and is envisioning a factory of the future, sees a lot of potential in next-gen 3D printing. “Just imagine what this could do for the maritime industry. They’re still using a lot of steel right now, but here we are constructing something from carbon fiber. In the near future, we might even use sustainable carbon fiber,” argues Guus Balkema, who set up the factory.

Should this concept be a success, a whole hall filled with 3D printers buzzing constantly isn’t far off, he says. “Innovations create jobs, you know. Robots are often accused of hurting the job market, but this is the new making industry. Those robots need to be maintained, watched and built. The nearby Delfshaven neighborhood has high levels of unemployment. With these 3D printing innovations, we are trying to turn that around.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Isaname wrote at 2/8/2016 4:19:47 PM:

That's crazy

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