3D printing is currently in its infancy, particularly when it comes to creating functional end-use products. Sure, there are some really cool devices and gadgets which have been fabricated on desktop 3D printers, but we are still several years away from really beginning to see the technology go to use in creating everyday products which can be both practical and fully functional at the same time. New breakthroughs such as 3D printing conductive traces and electronics will certain open a lot of doors within the space.
At a recent event held by MecklerMedia in New York City, called 3D Print Week NY, MakerBot was on hand with their own “show within the show”. The company had a large theater setup where people could enjoy various presentations on 3D printing, as well as dozens of incredible 3D printed projects which have not been unveiled previously. One project which stood out the most to me, was a large 3D printed outboard boat motor, measuring an incredible 4 feet in height, all 3D printed on a MakerBot 3D printer.
Designed by MakerBot Product Designer Carlos Cruz, it was by far my favorite 3D printed object within the entire MakerBot section of the show. Perhaps it was the sheer size, or perhaps the simple fact that I love boating, but whatever it was, there were constant crowds standing around gazing and talking about it. This design was only one of Cruz’s many amazing creations, all of which were quite fascinating to look at.
“[It was] designed to emphasize the educational, mechanical, and prototyping capabilities of 3D printing,” Cruz told 3DPrint.com. “One of the main goals with these projects was to demonstrate that a high level of complexity could be achieved with desktop printers, and how 3D-printed prototypes can be an invaluable part of the product development process.”
While the motor wasn’t actually a fully functional product, it was fully functional in terms of the mechanics. All of the mechanics were created as a prototype-like design, showing the inner workings of a real full-sized boat motor. Modeled in Solidworks, the plastic 4-foot tall, 100% 3D printed outboard motor features a moving crankshaft, camshaft, bevel gears, pistons and propeller, and if moved manually it would function just like a real engine you would find on a boat. It took an incredible 250 hours of print time to complete and features around 115 individual pieces which were assembled together by hand after being fabricated.
Cruz is obviously a very talented designer, who understands mechanics and how engines function. His example here, proves that we are not all that far from printing actual mechanical objects, such as functioning boat engines. The only questions that remains is, just when will a new MakerBot 3D printer actually be capable of printing a full sized, fully functional motor. My guess is sooner than you all may think!
“It’s tough to say, but I think that the bottleneck will be materials,” explains Cruz. “It seems to me that software and hardware is progressing at a faster rate than materials are, but materials are critical, especially for applications as complex as that of an engine. In my opinion, that’s the reason why 3D printing is generally not considered a true mass-manufacturing process yet, but I emphasize the word ‘yet’.”
What do you think about this incredible 3D printed motor? Is this something you would consider 3D printing yourself at home? How long until we begin discussing 3D printing real working engines like this at home? Discuss in the 3D Printed Outboard Boat Motor forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out some more photos of this incredible motor prototype below.