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Limits to 3D-printed Gear

August 24, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 18:23

By Noah Mostow

I returned this week from a month of remote work while traveling through the east coast and mid-west. One of my favorite activities is kayaking on lakes and rivers. Recently, I came across Melker, a Swedish company that produces 3D-printed kayaks. The company uses a bio-based composite material and large-format material extrusion systems to create full-size kayaks. The boats are beautiful and can range from 480 cm (189 in) to 586 cm (231 in) in length. These boats are beautiful and sustainable, but it is daunting to travel a distance with them.

While traveling, my girlfriend and I had two inflatable kayaks from Advanced Elements with us. I have been using them for the past few years and they are work great. They track well (i.e., go straight) and are rugged. During our trip, we paddled the Cuyahoga River in Akron, Ohio and went over many rocks in shallow rapids. What I like most is that each fit into a 76 x 43 x 20 cm (30 x 17 x 8 in) duffle bag and can be inflated in less than five minutes. We never had to worry about them being stolen from the top of the car or breaking from hitting a rock. To underscore their transportability, we fit four people, four kayaks, and all our gear into a Volkswagen hatchback multiple times.

Over the past few years, the outdoor industry has begun to adopt additive manufacturing. I am excited about this because 3D printing can improve the gear’s performance, aesthetics, and sustainability. However, for now, I will stay with my inflatable kayak because nothing travels as easily, costs as little, and is as durable.