3-D Printed Boat a ‘Historic First’

University of Washington students placed second in a boat race in a vessel constructed from a homemade 3-D printer.

by / July 27, 2012

Students at the University of Washington created a boat using a 3-D printer and milk jugs — and then further proved the concept by racing the boat in the university’s Milk Carton Derby. Led by Matt Rogge of the Washington Open Object Fabricator’s club, the boat may be the first of its kind, according to the club.

Making the boat the way the students did was difficult and a “historic first,” said faculty adviser Mark Ganter, according to the university’s press release. "Frankly, milk jug material is an awful material to work with," he said. "It shrinks, it curls, it doesn't want to stick to itself. Overcoming all those parts of the problem was part of the achievement."

The students spent two months on the project, conducting research, collecting materials and building the printer, which was made from a 4-foot-by-8-foot plasma cutter and a homemade extruder. Made from about 250 milk jugs, the boat weighs 40 pounds and can support about 150 pounds in water.

According to the university, the process takes instructions from a computer to print a solid object in layers, using a machine similar to an inkjet printer.

Photo: The University of Washington’s 3-D printing club collected more than 150 milk jugs to print a person-sized boat. Photo courtesy of Adam Commons.