3D-printed yachts could be lighter, faster, and fireproof within a decade

3D-printed yachts
Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect

You may have heard of 3D printing to produce airless tires, furniture, food, or even marijuana treats. Those applications may be awesome, but how about something a lot bigger, like an entire superyacht? According to Naval architect Greg Marshall, the technology for 3D-printed yachts and superyachts could be in place by 2030, it’s only a matter of scaling up from current 3D printer designs.

Marshall’s views on 3D printed yachts are from an article in Futureyachts, a Boat International bookazine. The interview itself sprung from a presentation Marshall gave at the 2017 Superyacht Design Symposium.

According to Marshall, entire superyachts, including the interiors, could be created with 3D-additive printing. One of the greatest advantages of 3D printing over conventional construction technologies is waste reduction. “Additive manufacturing is changing the playing field. In the very near future, we will be using it to build superior yachts that have significant material reductions and much smaller carbon footprints,” Marshall said.

“Typically in a shipyard, you see about 15 to 20 percent raw material wastage,” Marshall continued. With 3D printing, it’s around 2 percent, so it’s a huge savings in material, a huge savings in labor.”

Marshall also says yachts will be 3D-printed using titanium. Titanium is relatively lightweight compared to steel, which means higher boat speed with less power. If the metal was also used to 3D print yacht interiors, which could later be covered with wood veneers and stone work, fire protection is an added benefit. Titanium’s melting point is about 300 degrees centigrade higher than steel. Titanium also doesn’t corrode and is bio-compatible — that’s why titanium can be used in human bone replacement implants – so maintenance won’t be as much of an issue.

How soon can we expect to see 3D-printed yachts and superyachts? Marshall said the technology for 3D printing with titanium is available now but needs to scale up.

A next-generation 3D printer due in late 2017 will be ready to print large-scale parts. According to Marshall, an even larger scale printer coming online in 2020 will jump up the size considerably. In the mid 20’s he thinks the yacht industry will be printing entire six-meter (19.6 feet) yacht tenders in one step.

“We picture by 2030 we’ll probably be fairly close to 3D printing full-scale metal structures on boats and interiors will come after that,” Marshall said.

Faster construction with 3D-printed yachts could mean a reduction from two or three years to as short as 90 days to print a 45-meter (148-foot) superyacht.