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Large Robotic 3D Printing Builds Sailboat Hull from Recycled Material

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This year’s Milan Design Week in Italy took place last week, and just as in years past, an interesting 3D printed innovation was showcased at the annual event. Much like Zaha Hadid Architects explored robotic 3D printing for Milan Design Week in 2017, Italian company Caracol and its partner NextChem – Marie Tecnimont’s company for green chemistry and energy transition technologies – used the technology to create what they’re calling the world’s first 3D printed sailboat hull prototype. We’ve seen 3D printed sailboat parts and models before, but this joint research project, called Beluga, is something new.

Typically, making a sailboat requires manufacturing methods that use molds and materials, such as fiberglass, that are tough to recycle. For this project, Caracol used its proprietary robotic Additive Manufacturing system to print the hull of the Beluga sailboat in a single piece out of NextChem’s recycled MyReplast material.

The 3D printed Beluga sailing at Monte Argentario, Italy, this summer.

Caracol’s large-scale 3D printing system uses a six-axis robotic arm and a company-patented extruder to help users improve their efficiency, production lead time, and part performance, while also being more conscientious of the environment. Circular economy processes that reuse plastic for new products are even more important as the amount of plastic pollution in the world steadily increases. If the amount of plastic we waste continues the way it has been, about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in our landfills, or polluting the environment, by the year 2050.

The Beluga sailboat, which Caracol referred to as a “symbol of new beginnings, restart, exploration, and here also of an innovation in the manufacturing world” in a press release, was 3D printed in one piece, entirely out of NextChem’s MyReplast material that was recovered through waste upcycling processes. This 3D printed hull prototype is a perfect example of using recycled polymers to produce new advanced components for high-performance applications.

Caracol’s robotic additive manufacturing system in use at its headquarters in Italy.

The 3D printed Beluga sailboat hull prototype by Caracol and NextChem was officially presented at the 2021 Milan Design Week, right in the heart of the Isola Design District in Via Angelo della Pergola. During the five-day event, various guest speakers talked about this joint research project and the various themes related to it, such as plastic recycling, the circular economy, and large-scale robotic additive manufacturing innovation.

Caracol and NextChem were also supported in this project by Euroscatola, which uses recycled material to produce packaging; furniture design company Elli, which shared some of its pieces for the installation that were printed by Caracol out of recycled material; and the Yacht Club Santo Stefano, a sailing club associated with the Italian Sailing Federation that offered up its own locations, team of athletes, and expertise to help test out and validate the 3D printed sailboat.

(Source/Images: Caracol)

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