Groundbreaking Experiment by CPSdrone: Operating a 3D Printer Successfully Underwater


Some folks have built an underwater 3D printer — that actually works!

CPSdrone is a YouTube channel that details their experiments in building underwater drones. Many of their projects involve 3D printing, particularly for the drone housings.

Recently they published a video where they took their underwater skills to an entirely new (or deeper?) level: making a standard FFF 3D printer operate while completely submerged.

Upon seeing the video’s title, my initial reaction was scepticism, anticipating a dramatic and potentially electrifying result. However, these talented individuals drastically exceeded my expectations!

It boggles the mind – how could this possibly work without problems like electric shorts, corrosion, and thermal effects arising? What steps did they take to enable this impressive feat?

The process involved modifying a standard FFF 3D desktop printer in a number of ways, such as:

  • Waterproofing all motor contacts by opening the motors and applying epoxy
  • Substituting standard endstops with ones designed to be waterproof
  • Protecting heatbed connectors with a coating of epoxy
  • Using plastic bearings in place of standard ones
  • Attaching the display externally
  • Replacing frame sections with plastic counterparts
  • Securing the power supply inside a waterproof case and fixing it externally
  • Removing cooling fans from the extruder (thanks to the water’s cooling action)
  • Ensuring the heat block in the hot end is sealed in silicone and contained in a special casing
  • Elevating the spool above the printer to prevent it from getting wet too soon
  • Thoroughly coating the board of the sealed controller box with epoxy

At this juncture, the device had been modified for underwater use. The team opted to use deionized water to minimize the risk of electrical complications.

After positioning the printer underwater, they were taken aback by the fact that it actually functioned! The print adhered to the bed, and layers were effectively laid down.

Regrettably, the silicone encompassing the hot end did not last long enough, necessitating its replacement with a different high-temperature silicone. They were successful in printing a #3DBenchy, which turned out rather nicely.

However, the layer adhesion was rather poor, and the prints delaminate easily. That’s because the water cooled the layers very efficiently, and subsequent layers would be deposited on cold prior layers.

A FFF 3D printer operating underwater [Source: YouTube]

They also found the underwater printer had superior performance for overhangs, which were cooled easily by the water. Bridging also worked very well.

Why do this at all? The experiment was to determine whether the powerful cooling provided by the water could offer a better solution. It seems they succeeded in the experiment, but ran into a variety of other problems. For example, prints were full of water inside the hollow interior!

My feeling is that these challenges can be tackled with further adjustments and enhanced gear.

Their aim is to make the printer function underwater, specifically in a swimming pool, a feat which is admittedly grand. To make it possible, they made the printer entirely wireless by enclosing external elements like the display, and then took it into the pool.

One unforeseen problem they encountered was the constant dislocation of the spool from the machine. This was probably because it was slightly buoyant in the water and easily detachable. They also discovered that their silicone alterations did not endure for a very long time.

All in all, this was a commendable experiment that, to my knowledge, hadn’t been tried before. We now possess the knowledge that underwater 3D printers can be constructed, and I’m curious whether any company might embrace this idea and produce a commercial model?

Via YouTube and CPSDrone

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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