Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, has in a very short time literally invaded every field of production, today the chance to produce something in additive manufacturing is accessible almost to everyone and in almost all materials; from basic thermoplastic materials to metals, from pasta to concrete. This technology is the child of 3D modelling and the digital era and is based on a substantially banal concept: that of gradually adding material to create a given shape layer after layer. The most banal 3D printing technology is that in which a filament of thermoplastic material is deposited on a platform by a robot head that moves in three axes; but what would happen if instead of a filament of thermoplastic it were possible to deposit a filament of glass fibre impregnated with resin? This is the question that Moi Composites has answered and the answer is CFM: Continuous Fibre Manufacturing. But giving birth to an idea is not enough, and nor is patenting a technology; you need to demonstrate its potential and do so with something that breaks the mould, also in a sector like yachting that has always been very inert in front of innovation! This was the philosophy that gave life to MAMBO (Motor Additive Manufacturing Boat).
Its aim was to build the first yacht in the world completely built by additive manufacturing from composites and actually able to sail. The Mambo project came not just from the creativity and enterprise of Moi Composites but also from the active participation in the project of MICAD for the boat structures and such world players as Autodesk, Owens Corning and Mercury.
To demonstrate the great potential of CFM, Mambo was purposely conceived with a shape that was totally impossible to construct using moulds, modelling surfaces without taking any account of the direction of extraction from the mould all the most elementary principles of composite moulding. As what happens in a normal filament 3D printing process and according to the robotic arm range used to print the entire body of the boat, its external shape made of an unidirectional glass fiber layer, was printed into six macro sections of 3mm thickness. The logic behind the definition of the sections was to create a kind of puzzle which would then take shape in a series of assembly steps.
Our challenge in the Mambo project was the more “practical” one and we had to be just as creative and innovative because no one has ever written a book, how to structure and turn into a single body (moreover one that will sailed) the six macro sections of the boat each about a metre long!
The macro sections of Mambo only represented what in technical jargon is called the “skin coat”, to which it would be necessary to add the laminate that would then form the true body of the hull. To make it all easier, more economic or but above all light and strong, we opted for a sandwich laminate produced manually with a biaxial fibres. A fundamentally important phase was studying the lamination process of each individual macro section and at the same time the process of assembling all the sections so as to create structural continuity of the end product equal to that of a boat moulded in the traditional way. Mambo, created from small sections a few millimetres thick printed by a robot arm had finally become a single, solid and strong object.
CFM represents actually a big chance to radically change the way of building boats avoiding the use of models and molds that represents a considerable cost of investment for the producer and then of the boat final cost. but, as every young technology, has to be developed to overcome its limits that now are: dimensions of maufacts, equipments costs, low aesthetic quality of final product, times and facility in make a series production (repeatability of manufacts). At the moment MICAD team, always in cooperation with Moi Composites, is searching and testing some new solutions to improve the building process of boats with AM techniques to reduce times, costs, introduce new materials as carbon fiber and make easier and faster also a serial production.
A young, innovative and totally unprecedented project in wich once again Italy proves a leading player!
That opens up new scenarios for all the world yachting industry, capable to build boat in series but even one-of-a-kind products with the same simplicity and with the potential to obtain design shapes that today are impossible to make. Stay tuned!