Using 3D printing to replace boat parts
Life in Florida has a lot of advantages. Warm, sunny weather year round, proximity and access to water and water-related activities, and no shovelling snow in winter. Florida has world-class beaches, state parks, scenery, animal life, nature trails to explore, and a relatively low cost of living.
Unfortunately, the pros always come with cons. One of the biggest issues is the necessity to deal with hurricanes and tornadoes, which hit Florida more than any other state in the country. Since 1851, there have only been 18 hurricane seasons that ended without a major storm affecting the state of Florida. Since the exploration of the state has started, Florida has had over 450 cyclones go through it, with hurricane Irma being the latest.
As a boat owner, you know from experience that heat, humidity, rain, winds, storms, and regular use can lead to damages to your vessel. Waiting to fix something is likely to get more expensive the longer you wait because moisture, salt, water, and the sun can quickly increase the problem. If you receive damage to your vessel, you want to fix the issues quickly, fix them soon before they get worse, and choose materials wisely and invest in quality parts that will not rust or get damaged quickly.
This is where 3D printing can help. Outside of its use in manufacturing (add link) and art (add link), 3D printing can facilitate custom creation of a piece or fixture, in a material of your choice.
3D Printing has a number of advantages when compared to ordering a part from a dealer. First, if your boat is older, the part may not even be available. Second, if the dealer doesn’t have the part in stock and has to order it, you may have to wait several months to receive what you need and risk it getting lost or damaged. Or, imagine waiting for a few months to get the part only to realize that it is not what you ordered.
By working with a 3D printer, you effectively remove these risks. Halo Aerospace will create your part right here in Florida. This means that the lead, price and production time for your part will be significantly reduced. Compared to traditional manufacturing, 3D printing can be up to five times cheaper and yet yield parts of higher quality.
With 3D printing, you have full control of the final part, including design, size, utility, and color. You can make design changes if you want, and can choose the material you’d like the final part to be made of.
Materials for 3D printing on a boat
The following are some of the most popular materials that Halo uses for boat parts:
ABS (short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a type of plastic that has wear resistance and weather tolerance properties. It is impact-resistant and tough. It can be safely used in a wide range of temperatures up to 176F. It does not rust or corrode. The final properties depend on the printing process and usage of special additives which can help boat parts made out of ABS withstand UV radiation and prolonged sun exposure.
Nylon is strong and flexible, which is why you probably already have some nylon parts and accessories on your boat, such as ropes. Nylon also has shatter resistance properties.
PLA is brittle and stiff. It is one of the most popular bioplastics in the world today. Many of the plastic cups and tea bags you use on a daily basis are made of PLA. PLA is corn-based, which makes it biodegradable. This makes it not a good fit for outdoor use, but can be great for use in a galley.
Carbon fiber composite is resistant to corrosion, light, stiff, chemically resistant, and strong.
PETG is durable and flexible. The material has a glossy surface. It is similar to nylon in many of its properties. The main difference is that nylon bounces back and PETG doesn’t. Typically, sailcloth is made out of PETG composites.
Replacing damaged parts
Boat parts wear out, tear, and break from use and environmental stress, but there is also a need for routine maintenance.
Vents on a yacht vents corrode quickly, which is why Halo recommends using a combination of ABS, polypropylene and aluminum hardware to create custom vents. Halo has created custom vents for local vessel owners in the past that were cheaper, and lasted longer, than the usual metal vents.
Latches, including those on doors, ports, and storage, are an example of parts that undergo constant use and often break. Halo also has experience in creating other parts that are exposed to a lot of wear from people and environmental factors like wind or UV exposure.
Radio mounts, because they’re usually located outside, are exposed to the elements and can be damaged. 3D printing allows for the creation of mounts with better features and at a lower price compared to the radio mounts that are created using regular manufacturing methods and sold at regular retail locations.
Speaker covers can also be damaged from impact or from UV exposure. Most boat owners aren’t even aware that they can use 3D printing to create new covers and instead are looking to get new speakers, which is often much more expensive. Halo can print custom covers quickly and inexpensively.
Bimini cover parts for small damaged parts that would normally have to be purchased in an entire set, Halo can print just the part (or parts) you need.
Fasteners can break during a storm or an outing, but no matter the size, Halo can replace them for you. Any sort of screw, bolt, etc. that can be plastic or non-corrosive, Halo has created or replicated.
Fishing accessories such as rod mounts, guides, or anything that supports fishing rods and their use on boats or yachts, Halo can create.
If you store your boat on the water in Florida, it is likely that you regularly need to assess the damages and constantly replace a few parts. Halo can replace damaged parts for less money and often in less time than a parts store because the job is done in-house and on demand.
Give Halo a call next time you need a new part for your boat, and see how we can help!