A group of researchers at the University of Maine and marine industry leaders have created a ‘technology cluster’ to help Maine boatbuilders explore how large-scale 3D printing using economical, wood-filled plastics can provide the industry with a competitive advantage. The effort is being funded by a US$500,000 grant from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI).
The cluster brings together the expertise of The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (UMCC) and small to medium-sized boatbuilders who are often challenged by the cost and lead time required to create traditional marine tooling and boat moulds. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, can help significantly reduce the production time needed to fabricate boat molds, by as much as 75%, according to researchers at UMCC and the Wiscasset Newspaper.
The adoption of large-scale additive manufacturing has been hindered by the high coast of 3D printers and feedstock materials. To address the costs, UMCC will develop a range of economical wood-filled materials for composite tooling applications. The use of the wood-based fillers significantly reduces the cost and increases the stiffness and toughness of the material, while reducing the environmental impact and improving recyclability.
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