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3D printing has been around in our imagination for a while. Back, for instance, in 1978 Theodore Taylor imagined a 'Santa Claus machine' which could scoop up material - rocks from the Moon or rocks from asteroids - process them inside and produce just about any product: washing machines or teacups or automobiles or starships.


More limited machines - food synthesizers in particular - had existed in the Star Trek universe since the 1960s, although it wasn't until the 1980s and 'Star Trek:The Next Generation' that replicators came into their own, magicking into existence everything from uniforms to replacement anti-matter relays to Captain Picard's earl grey tea.

Out in the real world, in the 2000s additive manufacturing (AM), particularly 3D printing using polymer technologies, had started to become a reality. Recent manifestations have been Rymans, the High Street stationers, starting in 2014 to sell 3D printers for domestic use. While the same year brought the printing aboard the International Space Station of a ratchet wrench from a design file uploaded from the Earth.

Perhaps the time has come to stop imagining and start applying this technology to building model racing yachts.


Bill says:


" My passion has always been to build model racing yachts in wood, it’s a relatively inexpensive, quick building process and relatively easy to repair/maintain


I have built wooden model racing yachts from both Brad Gibson and Mark Dicks designs, nothing beats the feeling of getting a home built model across the finishing line first


I became interested in 3D printing a number of years ago, I liked the idea of making some of the internal items for the models out of plastic, unfortunately for me the cost of the 3D machine was prohibitive.


During the second lockdown I came across 3D printing groups on social media, my interest was re-sparked, I started following some groups, reading with interest.


After some research I opted for the Creality Ender 3 V2 3d printer, it had really good reviews and gave a building platform of 235x235x250mm, sufficient for printing an IOM in 7 sections


The design I chose to build was a Mark Dicks IOM Visionary, the designs were purchased through an Australian model shop web site and downloaded.


Wow! the next bit caused some grey matter problems and more than a few sense of humour failures... The files (plan) are downloaded as STL files, these need to loaded into a Slicer program, sliced ( like a loaf of bread) and saved to an SD card.


The SD card is loaded into the 3D printer and bob's your aunt... no, really there’s a whole new learning curve to get the printer to produce your parts, thank goodness for YouTube and Mark Dicks' support.


The items can take from a few minutes to print, others took around 25 hours, all printed parts are glued together with superglue, all parts have location marks so it’s a bit like an airfix model in construction.


I’m still a little way off completing this project, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how she performs.


Having stripped out my IOM Alternative I had all the additional items needed, so the costs have been £199 for the printer and £25 for the plastic filament.


I would just like to add how helpful Mark Dicks has been in getting me this far."

Further detail from Bill:


STRENGTH The hull is glued together with superglue, the joints are extremely strong, the hull is designed to be different thicknesses in different areas, there is also some internal structure, different filaments offer different amounts of flex, I use PLA+, it's 10 times stronger than PLA and offers more flex. The strength is in the plastic filament melting correctly and bonding together, this is where the correct 3D printer setup comes into play


HEAT You need to note, the melting temperature of plastic filament is low, light colours need to used for the hull, do not leave in a unventilated car on a summer's day


SALT WATER The plastic filament is made from corn starch, it won’t last long if you moor it up in salt water, having said that if you search YouTube you will see that they have just 3D printed a full size coastal power boat.


WEIGHT From what I’ve seen on 3D yacht building social media site it’s comparable with more conventional layups


TIME TO MAKE THE NEXT ONE There’s very little clean up after a part is printed, maybe some supports to remove, so if everything printed correctly first time you could probably print and assemble one in 7-10 days


NEXT STEPS - AS AT APRIL 2021 I’ve still some work to do, fit the winch lines, tweak my rigs to fit, fit the ballast weight and add any corrector weights, but I’m looking forward to coming to sail it at Hove and see how she performs.

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