3D printing boat moulds from wood-based plastic

This October, the University of Maine in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US will receive what is said to be the world’s largest 3D printer, which initially will be used to 3D print boat moulds from wood-based plastic.

The biobased filament was developed at the University of Maine. It is made from nanocellulose, which is added to polylactic acid, a bioplastic better known as PLA. The nanocellulose makes the PLA stronger and stiffer, but also cheaper.

Boat builders are often challenged by the costs and time required to create traditional marine tools and boat moulds. 3D printing these moulds can cut time by 75 per cent and costs by up to 50 per cent.

At first, the material will be used to print boat hull moulds, but can also be used to make shelters, building components and tooling for composites and wind blades, amongst other possibilities.

The aim of the project is to make 3D printing more useful in manufacturing while also stimulating Maine’s forest products industry by finding new uses for wood-based products.

Photo: University of Maine