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Enormous 3D printer is designed for an equally huge job: printing yacht parts

3d printer building boats dsc0549
Image used with permission by copyright holder
A lot of the time we write about 3D printing, we talk about the kind of small footprint 3D printers that could fit on a desktop in a “makerspace” or a home office. That is far from the case with the currently-in-development Continuous Fibre Additive Manufacturing (CFAM) 3D printer, developed by Netherlands-based additive manufacturing company CEAD. It created an industrial-scale 3D printer with a very specific use case: Helping build ships.

“The CFAM printer is a large-scale thermoplastic composite 3D printer for industrial use,” Maarten Logtenberg, executive director for CEAD, told Digital Trends. “The machine we are developing is capable of printing 24 hours a day with engineering plastic and a continuous fiber on a very large scale. The technology is based on a single screw extruder with a weight of around 150kg, capable of temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius.”

While the company has yet to reveal the exact specifications of its technology (Logtenberg explained that CEAD is still in the process of securing a patent), they claim that the printer is able to extrude around 25 kilos of printed material every hour. It can process standard granule plastics and engineering plastics, including PP, PET, ABS, PLA, and PEEK.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“The size of the parts that can be printed on this machine are 4 meters by 2 meters by 1.5 meters,” he continued. “We believe that the 3D printing technology — and most importantly the industry — is ready and waiting for large-scale composite 3D printing. In addition to the granulate extruder, continuous fiber and large build platform, we are also developing a method to control the temperature of the printed part. This is extremely important in order to prevent warping of the parts, especially because of the large scale we are going to print.”

So when will yacht makers be able to get their hands on this revolutionary technology? Logtenberg said that the first prototype machine will be completed within the next six months. After that, it will go through extensive testing before models are shipped to customers.

“At the moment, we are taking in just three more orders, beside the two orders we already have for machines being built in 2019,” he said. “These first customers will have several benefits, and are going to be the first companies that will make use of this new technology, giving them a competitive advantage. These first customers will also have access to the first machine in order to start their development of new products in the second half of this year.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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