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World's first 3D-printed kayak takes to the water


March 24, 2014

Jim Smith on the water in his 3D-printed kayak

Jim Smith on the water in his 3D-printed kayak

Image Gallery (11 images)

It doesn't seem too long ago that 3D-printers were astounding us by churning out cheeky little trinkets or small replacement parts. But the technology has quickly grown to cater for everything from rapid prototyping to slick-looking commercial products, and a quick snack for astronauts to bizarre models of unborn babies. Jim Smith of Grass Roots Engineering has been designing and building his own home-based, large-scale 3D printer since 2008, and the latest modification recently spent over 40 days producing 28 colorful ABS plastic sections that were bolted together to create a 16.7 ft-long kayak.

The 3D-printed kayak design was based on the Siskiwit Bay kayak by Bryan Hansel, but modified for 3D-printing and optimized for Smith's height and weight. It's 16.7 ft (5.08 m) long and 1.7 ft (0.52 m) wide, with 28 sections that have been bolted together with machine screws and brass-threaded thermoplastic inserts, and sealed between sections with silicone caulk.

Smith, who works as an engineer at 3D Systems, modified his custom large-scale 3D printer to produce the large sections inside a heated chamber, to prevent warping and cracking. The heat from the build surface kept the chamber between 65 and 70 °C (149 - 158 °F). The largest section, section 15, measures 15 x 9 x 11 in (381 x 229 x 275 mm) and weighs 3.32 lb (1.5 kg).

The sections took a total of 1,012.65 hours (just over 42 days) to produce, at a layer height of 0.65 mm to keep print time down. Smith has added points to attach cameras, handles and future unspecified add-ons. The finished craft tips the scales at a not-exactly-featherweight 64.58 lb (29.29 kg), of which just over 58 lb is ABS plastic, but as you can see from the project overview video below, it does float.

Source: Grass Roots Engineering

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

We (archaeologists) are very interested by this technology to make copy of archaeological artefacts for exhibitions, pedagogic using, etc

Frédéric Gerber

Right on good for him, follow your dreams! would have liked to know how much it cost him to make, for just the materials. 42 days is a long time hard to say if this could be made commercialy, if it did you would likely have to use a different material and somehow speed it up.

I'v always thought of making my own boat, to someone who likes to be on the water and likes to work with their hands there is definately an appeal there, but if your not a carpenter it can be somewhat daunting, I like how this guy built a kayak doing what he knows, using computers and 3D printers.This could really change the world in so many ways if it gets cheap enough to make stuff(3D printing), and I think it will.


These 3D printers are progressing nicely :-) wasn't so long ago when you couldn't make anything more than a phone case in a day. Bring it on I say...this is Efin' Great!!

Terry Penrose

While tremendous progress has been made in 3D printing and it is, without a doubt, a much needed technology can we please get past this mentality that every single "worlds first 3D printed gizmo" needs to be touted like it is the most groundbreaking concept since sliced bread?

It's getting about as annoying as the brand new parent that tweets/updates every fart, burp, giggle or poopy that their bundle of joy makes.

Yes, it is fantastic. It may even seem to be (to some) the miracle of miracles but in reality it is simply the natural progression of the system/technology.


Wonder what will happen when it hits rough waters...

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