As a boat owner, you know from your own practical experience that boats can be incredibly demanding both in terms of time and money. Even if money is not an issue, little things on a boat can turn into big problems because boat parts don’t simply wear out with time. Damp salt air and sun can quickly damage systems and parts of your boat, which is why it is so important to get quality parts that will not rust quickly.
You may have heard about 3D printing, but what you may not know is that in the last decade or so 3D printing has opened a number of new and exciting options for yacht owners when it comes to boat maintenance, customization, and personalization. With 3D printing you can create all kinds of parts for your boat, from parts for use with rope to parts that will interact with the electrical system of a yacht.
How does 3D printing work?
3D printing refers to creating a 3-dimensional object from a digital model. If you’re new to 3D printing, check out our introduction to 3D printing.
Why is 3D printing a great choice for boats?
With 3D printing, you are fully in control and the process is much faster. You won’t have to wait for weeks or months until your part ships and arrives, and then hope that it fits or has the right quality to it. Not only can you get the part you need without any shipping and wait time hassles, but you can also have the part created exactly to your specifications, exactly when you need or want it, and in whatever material you choose.
What materials are available for 3D printing for yachts?
You can 3D print out of almost any material. For a yacht, this includes materials from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) to Carbon Fiber Infused PLA/ABS (a carbon fiber composite). Here is a brief overview of the materials that we here at Halo Aerospace use to create boat parts for our clients, and why these materials are a great choice for yacht parts.
Abutadiene styrene or ABS
ABS filament is a strong, ductile plastic material with wear resistance and heat tolerance. It can be used in the temperatures between -4F and 176F. ABS does not rust, rot or corrode. Special additives allow for creation of ABS that can successfully withstand ultraviolet radiation and sun exposure.
One of the factors to be aware of with ABS is that ABS does have adhesion issues, so it is best applied in a temperature-controlled environment. Yacht parts and accessories created from ABS can include interlocking mechanisms like gears and components exposed to UV and heat, such as deck cup holders. Latches are also usually made of ABS because of its durability and resistance to wear and environment.
As a boat owner, you are probably already familiar with nylon ropes and know how strong and flexible nylon is. Aside from its strength and flexibility, nylon is also shatter resistant and more UV resistant than PETG, another flexible material. On yachts, it is commonly used for living hinges and other functionally strong parts. Radio mounts are made in nylon because nylon is not only durable, it also allows for movement.
Polylactic acid or PLA
PLA filament is a stiff but brittle plastic, which is why in 2010 it had the second highest consumption volume of all bioplastics worldwide. You probably encounter PLA in your life on a daily basis. Examples of common items made with certain PLAs include plastic cups and tea bags.
PLA is a great material because it withstands environment and doesn’t warp. However, it is corn-based and biodegradable. For this reason, PLA is not a good fit for outdoor use but is great for galleys and other indoor uses where you can benefit from strong and cheap materials that can reliably keep their shape.
Carbon Fiber Infused PLA/ABS (Carbon Fiber Composite)
You probably don’t need an introduction to carbon fiber, and most likely your yacht has several parts made out of this corrosion-resistant, lightweight, highly stiff, strong and chemically resistant material.
Carbon Fiber Infused PLA/ABS has the best of both worlds: it is strong like carbon fiber and at the same time durable like ABS. Though as a composite it is not as strong as a pure material, its best uses include for tough functional parts and wear components. For example, we have used Carbon Fiber Infused PLA/ABS to create custom speaker covers, which gave them a nice look and stellar capabilities when it comes to performance and functionality.
PETG filament is a durable and flexible material with a glossy finish. It is impact and heat resistant. PETG is more flexible than nylon, but PETG does not bounce back to its original shape like nylon does. PETG is also less resistant to UV than nylon.
On a boat, sailcloth is usually made from a PETG composite. Similarly, PETG is great for gaskets or covers, and for covering exposed hardware. It is also great for mechanical part enclosures and snap fit enclosures.
Examples from Halo
Want some specific examples? Here are some parts and components we have custom created for yacht owners:
- Vents — On a yacht vents corrode quickly, so we have used a combination of ABS, polypropylene and aluminum hardware to create custom vents for a local vessel owner that were cheaper, and lasted longer, than the usual metal vents
- Latches — Including those on doors, ports, and storage. Halo also has experience in creating other parts that are exposed to a lot of wear from people and environmental factors. In many cases, yacht owners also ask us to replicate and print extra replacement parts that they can have on hand.
- Radio mounts — While they are an example of standard equipment, 3D printing allows for the creation of mounts with better features and at a lower price compared to regular retail.
- Galley parts and accessories — We can create anything from hooks for utensils to custom organizers for areas that retail does not cater to, to cabinet hardware including locks and handles.
- Speaker covers — We have printed custom covers for speakers that standard retail covers would not fit, for a customized and practical look.
- Bimini cover parts — For small parts that usually have to be purchased in an entire set, we can print just the part (or parts) you need.
- Fasteners — Any sort of screw, bolt, etc. that can be plastic or non-corrosive, we have created or replicated.
- Fishing accessories — Rod mounts, guides, etc. Anything that supports fishing rods and their use on boats or yachts, we can custom create.
Ready to bring 3D printing on board?
3D printing has lots of uses around a yacht. You can use 3D printing for both quick and easy part replacements and for custom elements, from the materials you want and the way you want them. By knowing what materials are available and what they can do, you’ll be able to find you can print almost anything for your vessel.
Do you have an idea for a project on your boat? Call us at 561-530-7689 to start a conversation on what our team at Halo can build for your yacht.