World's First 3D Printed Boat Enters Milk Carton Derby
The Milk Carton Derby is an annual event held in Green Lake, Seattle, where over 100 makeshift boats, in a wide variety eccentric designs, race along the water. However, one very special raft stood out from the crowd this year.
The entry came from the University of Washington, an institution pioneering the use of 3D printing technology in an environmentally friendly way. Using used milk bottles and a 3D printer, the university’s engineering department managed to craft a fully functional one-person raft boat.
The main rule of the university's category in the Milk Carton Derby was that the rafts had to be composed of empty milk bottles. The 3D printed boat therefore fully adhered to the regulations, putting all the other makeshift entries to shame. Despite all the attention and its superior design, the University of Washington boat failed to win the race, coming in second place. However, winning the Milk Carton Derby would have only been a consolation prize, after the university’s engineering department's boat won the $100,000 prize in the techfortrade’s 3D4D Challenge last October.
The 3D4D Challenge was a competition established to discover innovative uses of 3D printing technologies that had the potential to offer significant social benefits in the developing world. By creating useful products out of recycled materials, the University of Washington deservedly took the top prize. The head’s of the engineering department are currently planning on using the 3D4D prize money to fund a collaboration with the Water for Humans charity, to train communities in developing countries to use and maintain 3D printers to build products such as composting toilets and rainwater collectors.
Students at the university are currently working on ways to improve the efficiency of their current 3D printer. Although their work could be applied to virtually any product imaginable, manufacturing boats could be a very worthwhile avenue to pursue, as the supply of wood used to make small fishing boats in West Africa is becoming increasingly limited. The focus should be on using this technology in the developing world, but it is likely that these 3D capabilities will soon begin to influence more forms of manufacturing the world over.
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Image Credits: Main: University of Washington
Article by Jack Bartrop