CPSdrone has developed a 3D printer that also works under water. This enables better cooling of the printing material and therefore potentially higher print quality.
The FDM 3D printing process used is based on the layer-by-layer application of a plastic filament, which is heated locally and thus liquefied. It then solidifies again when it cools down. In order to counteract “sagging” of the material in the event of overhangs, rapid cooling and thus hardening of the plastic is required.
This is precisely where the advantage of water comes into play: it cools the printed structures faster than air. The CPSdrone team took advantage of this effect by modifying a standard 3D printer for underwater operation. Critical electronic components were insulated and couplings were replaced with corrosion-resistant versions.
The biggest challenge was insulating the heated nozzle head so that the printing material could be heated sufficiently. After several iterations, the technicians found a solution made of epoxy resin.
Test prints in an aquarium and even in a swimming pool show: The modified printer can also print under water without any problems. The cooling effect of the water improves the overhangs and leads to stiffer bridge structures. The team sees potential for further underwater applications of their 3D printers.