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This is Design Inspiration Friday, and I am super excited about this 3D printed kayak. I have a thing for kayaks and water sports. We are going to talk about a 3D printed kayak which is one of the coolest projects as it is ambitiously big, but it makes so much sense.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Printed Kayak
I will tell you why I am excited with this 3D printed kayak. I grew up in New England for the first thirty years of my life. I would go up to New Hampshire every summer as a kid and as a teenager. I went to a summer camp there called Mowglis, let me know if you went there too – there’s very few of us! It is a summer camp that started in 1905 or 1903. This summer camp was thematically based on the Jungle Book for over a hundred years now and is a wonderful thing. It is on a lake in New Hampshire and this camp did all sorts of different activities. It was only for boys and it was a sleep away camp. Every activity that kids get to do, just like hiking, mountain climbing, camping, and different kinds of water sports, were all there. I was a water enthusiast. I hung out on the water front all the time, which is why I learned how to sail, to boat, to canoe, and to kayak.
While I was young boy and a young teen doing all this camping and water sports, Tracy was a beach bum girl in California. She spent her summers in Catalina and did a few things like water skiing and a few things like that. She would much rather opt to hang out on the beach, and prefer to sit on a sailboat as we have done many times. On the other hand, I like rowing and other things. I did a lot of canoeing and I certainly understand the structures of canoes and kayaks, and also crew boats. We were introduced early into our careers with Perception Kayaks.
Right out of college, we were already married and we decided that whoever was going to get a job first is the place that we were going. The other one was just going to figure out what we are doing for work when we got there. Tracy got a job first in South Carolina, but there was nothing for me there. It was rural South Carolina and it was very rural. It was in the middle of nowhere and there were very few companies to work for. I applied to jobs, and almost got hired very far through the process.
I worked for this company called Perception Kayaks, which I believe still exists today. They were making kayaks by rotomolding. I learned so much about it and I had worked on other product designs as an independent freelancer in the years following. A lot of them were made that way. There are a lot of ways in making kayaks, but I think the most popular is rotomolding. It basically has a big thin wall aluminium mold that is a clam shell two-piece mold. They open it up and they put powder plastic material on it. Usually, polyethylene or something similar like that material is used. They put powder plastic in it, they close up the mold, and it then goes to a big apparatus. It really looked like a theme park ride like the “spider” type ride or a ride that turns you in all sorts of directions like the “scrambler”.
They put it into this machine that they put into an oven. When you are making a kayak this big that is 18 feet long, you are talking about an oven the size of a warehouse. This machine in the middle has half a dozen if not 12 of these kayaks. A lot of garbage cans are also made this way. The machine rotates the part in all axes. The aluminium heats up in the oven with the plastic and ends up sticking to the aluminium mold in an even way.
You got a uniform thickness of plastic and it cools down and it pops up this big kayak. All you have to do is to cut out a hole from the body. It comes up through the kayak and it is where you sit on it. They would usually drill it and trim pieces and things to it, and then you are done.
Making a 3D Printed Kayak
It takes a lot of money. Making a mold like that is probably about $10,000 if it is a mold for one. I was really intrigued and impressed when we saw this project, and this was from Grassroots Engineering, where they 3D printed all the different parts of this kayak in pieces. He didn’t just make a 3D printed kayak, but he built a 3D printer to 3D print it. He had to modify a RepRap printer to print it, because he had to build a custom enclosure to maintain the heat so it did not get warping and cracking as he built the ABS.
It didn’t take longer to make this mold than it would for us to do a typical mold process. It took 42 days to print a 3D printed kayak, and then more to put it together after that. Conventional rotomolding tooling would have been 6-8 weeks, and then you can go make it. It is not an unreasonable amount of time to prototype this. The most interesting thing to me is that this 3D printed kayak was custom designed for his weight and height. It is adjusted to be personal.
You need to have the skills to do this on your own 3D printer or if you are going to use your own 3D printer, I guess the question is why would you make your own where you can just by one on the shelf? It’s because you get to make it yours and your way. You can also have fun with the colors in making a 3D printed kayak. Because of the size of his 3D printer had to make it in pieces for each section. He then designed it to put silicon and all the joints to make it water tight, and bolted them together. He had to make this into a bunch of different pieces. The pieces that he makes towards the end, like the last 4 pieces, are all in one piece and color. Across the middle, he had to split it down and made half sections of the hull that he then bolted together.
It is really impressive. If you are into a more of a Rep Rap open source type of machine or if you have thought of building your own, look at his video because he has got some photography in building some of the parts. What intrigued me is how this 3D printer works like a conventional 3D FFF printer. He has the build plate moving in X and Y, and the nozzle is moving in a Z and X. In time lapse, you usually see the nozzle everywhere. In his time lapse, the part in the build plate is moving in all directions.
I think it is really smarter in that sense to be having go that direction. There is more likelihood of things going wrong, and you have got a lot of material going through it. It talks about the number of pounds. That’s a lot of material. I have seen once where the build plate moves in one axis like in the Y axis, and the other one moves in the X and Z axis. I would think moving the build plate along the whole time is that you need to have stronger motors in doing that, because you are moving around in a lot more weight all the time. Instead of the part being static and you move the extruder, so the weight is always the same. The weight is increasing the more parts you print.
I see the material as the one that causes the problem. When I see things go wrong, it is usually the material feeds and if you don’t move the material, we tend to see that the ones that don’t move their material tends to be more consistent in finishing their parts. I have seen 3D printers that when they are printing to the far corners of the build plate and they are stretching out the material, which causes some anomalies and problems. Here with the 3D printed kayak, all of that material is very static that the situation where the feeding of the filaments is pretty much always the same except that it is just raising in height. You can be feeding your filament from straight above and then you see no differences there.
My only caution to people who do this is not doing it in your living room, as it is not probably the best thing to have silicon in your living room. It seems like a bachelor project. Just try some place else. I think it is just all about the restrictions of how big your part is. Go ahead and figure out how to make it happen anyway. Do want you want to do but try the garage maybe.
This is like a BHAG of a project – big, hairy, audacious, and I forgot what the G is. The point is that it is a big and stinking project. I get so excited looking at this and taking a large scale project and making it in a conventional homemade 3D printer. There are 28 parts here, and 42 days of 3D printing, and 58 pounds of ABS plastic are used here. That’s a lot of plastic. But 58 pounds of kayak is not a big deal. I would also love to see Stage 2, now that I have learned how to do this. I would love to see stylistically, making it look beautiful. What if it had a variety of colors form one end to another, because that would surely make it beautiful. You can customize and put some detail in it for yourself.
If you are going to do this and make it custom for people, go all the way with it because I would love to see that. I don’t have a lot of favorite Kickstarters. I am not a big fan of most of the projects that are on Kickstarter, but I have one that I absolutely love and it’s a kayak. The Oru Kayak is like an origami kayak. It’s an impressive collapsible kayak which was entirely a different thing because you could fit it in your car and don’t need a rack to strap it on top of your car.
I keep thinking on a combination of how can you do something where it combines with something that you have done so great with your tie, and how you fits something on a build plate that it couldn’t fit into, to something in which you are building in it so that you have as few pieces as possible. What if it could pop together? What if it was an origami 3D printed kayak like Oru? I think it would be so cool.
I think the water tightness is also an issue. A folded kayak has a folded structure but I think they almost have a fabric cover that was your water barrier. It gives something like that in 3D printing, and that is no question. But this is a super cool project and I wonder if anybody is trying to make a surf board in 3D printers.
The next video that served up was for me a skateboard. Remember the guys we saw on one of those maker faires who were doing that infrastructure to a cardboard honeycomb structure? He had all of these tiny pieces and he could certainly print that honeycomb structure in a weak float dynamic that was custom to you. That would be interesting and challenging too.
There are a lot of cool projects out there going on, and this is not a new project. This was one has been out there. It was two years ago that this guy had made this kayak. It has resurfaced, and I think it deserves it. At a part of the video, he clearly mounted a GoPro to go with it while he’s paddling around on the water. Did he 3D print a mount for a GoPro to the end of it? Or did he just screw the mount on to the GoPro or duct tape it on there? He didn’t really go into that and I definitely would have planned it and 3D printed the GoPro mount right into it as you’re doing it, and that is the advantage of it. The only thing that he put into the kayak that is not 3D printed is this little butt pad, this little seat. There are standard ones that you can buy. If you are going to turn over or roll over with the kayak which is a big thing for kayakers and would who get into that, is that the little rubber bladder would be attached for the opening of your body and that seals around your body so when you roll over, you won’t get water inside the kayak. That is a product that you can use conventionally on the shelf and there is no reason to custom make that.
It is a great project and I am super excited to talk about it today. Leave us a comment under this blogpost. If you know any similar projects or if you have done anything like this, tell us. We talk about 3D printers all the time, and if ever you wanted to get one or to try one, is that to me if you are going to do something that really needed a big volume like this, this is a good reason to build your own 3D printer for your own specific thing. It makes it perfect for exactly what you plan to do, and not just doing it to do it. It is super cool, I love it, and it is a great job.
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