From sailboats and submarines to yachts, 3D printing technology has been used numerous times to make components for boats and ships. This week, Rhode Island-based yacht builder Hinckley Co., which has been in the yacht business since 1928, introduced the boating world to Dasher, its first fully electric vessel, at the 47th Newport International Boat Show. The 28.5′ Dasher, which gets its name from the company’s Hinckley Picnic boat, is the lightest boat Hinckley has built in its nearly 90-year history…and 3D printing had a little something to do with it.

“This isn’t just an existing design, where we dropped a couple of electric motors in. The boat has been designed, ground up, for electric propulsion,” Scott Bryant, Hinckley’s Director of New Product Development, said of the Dasher.

Electric boats are not a new concept, but the high-speed ones are typically more experimental or promotional, like the one-off 38-foot Cigarette AMG Electric Drive, which was run off a dozen Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive motors. Additionally, they are more often found in Europe.

“There are several lakes where you’re not allowed to have a petrol-based platform,” Bryant explained about the continent across the Atlantic. “You can row your boat, or sail your boat, or you have electric propulsion. In the U.S. it’s a little bit less prominent, but we believe that’s going to be coming sooner than later.”

The Hinckley Dasher is propelled by twin 80-horsepower Torqeedo Deep Blue 80i 1800 motors, and each of them runs off a 40 kilowatt/hour lithium ion battery, which gives the electric yacht a range of 40 miles at a 10 mph cruising speed (8.6 knots); you can also crank up the speed and hit 18 to 27 mph, with a range of 25 miles before a recharge is necessary. These days, most marinas are set up for electric vessels with a charging infrastructure of dockside power sources. The Dasher’s typical shore-power setup is 30 amps, though hooking it up to a pair of standard 50 amps will recharge its dead batteries to completely full in just four hours, which the company states is “faster than a Tesla Model S or Model X.”

Hinckley uses 3D printing for some of Dasher’s metal components.

Hinckley typically builds its vessels using dense, varnished teak, but this time replaced it with the company’s trademarked Artisanal Teak – a molded composite structure hand-painted with wood grain which looks almost exactly like the real thing. This material is much lighter, which helps the Dasher achieve its title of lightest Hinckley boat, but it’s not the only factor. Hinckley’s Center Console 29 runabout has similar dimensions to the 6,500 lb Dasher, but it weighs 1,500 lbs more. Key to this weight reduction is the company’s “liberal use of carbon fiber” in the vessel’s stringers and carbon-epoxy hull, and its 3D printed metal components.

The Dasher is built, like all other Hinckley yachts, using the Seeman Composite Resin Infusion Molding Process (SCRIMP), except that this vessel also contains 3D printed titanium hardware components. Additive manufacturing can not only help lower the production cost and time it normally takes to hand craft a boat, but also the weight of the boat itself. Precise, complex geometries offering high strength and low weight are hallmarks of what additive manufacturing makes possible, setting it apart from traditional, subtractive production techniques and providing qualities of great value to the maritime industry.

The Dasher’s high-tech single touchscreen console, which offers a GPS display of the vessel’s location, a retractable windshield, and Jet Stick joystick, also features 3D printed details.

“Hinckley’s Dasher is pushing the boatbuilding envelope with an intriguing concept that blends retro-styling, modern technology, and perhaps a look into the future of yachting,” Yachting Magazine’s Patrick Sciacca wrote. “It’s a vessel that may be viewed in digital media terms as an influencer. And that can only be a good thing.”

The first test rides of the Dasher prototype won’t be until later this month, but reservations for the final model are currently being accepted, with delivery slated for next summer; the Hinckley Dasher will cost over half a million dollars, like other Hinckley vessels that size, with no price premium. By early 2018, Bryant believes that the Dasher will “exceed its current range.”

“When we started this project [a little more than two years ago], our test boat actually used a totally different battery, similar in weight to the existing i3 batteries that we have in there now. But it had about about 30 percent less power density, which translated to 30 percent less range. So, really, we are riding a development wave in ways that’s pretty significant right now in the marketplace,” he explained.

“I don’t believe that Dasher will be our only electric-propulsion product. I think what we’re looking to do is to incorporate a bunch of the features that we’re introducing on Dasher into our other products. There’s so much going on in the automotive space, and just in the energy-storage space right now, that to not be a part of it is just silly.”

3D printing technology has been used to help in the development of other electric vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars, and if all goes as planned with the Dasher, it looks like it will have a home in the marina as well.

[Images: Hinckley]

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