When it comes to 3D printers, chances are good you think of desktop models. However, even the best 3D printers for home use can’t compare to what industrial machines and forward-thinking business owners can create.
Dutch entrepreneurs actually used 3D printing technology to create a 20-foot submarine that will see use in military applications, as well as the oil industry.
A Look at the Submarine
There are two people you should know who were intimately involved with the creation of the submarine in question. The first is Jasper Menger, the creator of the Robot-Arm 3D Printer that debuted in early 2015.
The second is Filip Jonker, a Dutch entrepreneur. They have joined forces to create the first 3D printed submersible.
The submarine will be an ideal tool for a number of different military applications, but it will also serve another role on oil drilling platforms. It can carry up to two people, and measures just 20 feet from bow to stern.
The submarine wouldn’t have been possible without the use of the newly enhanced Robot-Arm 3D Printer. Menger has improved the printer and it now features a minimum layer size of just one millimeter, with a built volume of 8 x 3 x 2 meters.
Thanks to its unique construction, it can easily resize to create very complex prints.
The only problem here is the limitations of its material. While the current material (glass-filled polypropylene composite) is sturdy enough to be submerged 10 or 20 feet underwater, the layer bonds will eventually leak.
This is where Jonker comes in. You might remember him for the feat of crossing the North Sea in a cardboard boat. He’s a materials specialist and he’s bringing that expertise to the table with the submarine.
With all that being said, neither of the pair expects the 3D printed sub to actually take to the water, even with advanced materials. It’s more of a proof of concept project, and for developing a prototype.
Once the final design is complete and a 3D printed model is done, they’ll use it as a mold to create more submarines through conventional processes (like injection molding). This gets around the problem of weakening layer bonds, while also reducing the time to completion.
While the sub might not see action in its 3D printed form, this is an exciting development and proof that 3D printing can be used in almost any industry. It’s not limited to the medical world or to the creation of gadgets and toys.
It’s also about innovation and building a stronger economy. “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,” said Guus Balkema, the man responsible for creating the factory that will eventually churn out subs and other creations.