5 July 2022. A Swedish project is the first in the world to 3D print a full-size kayak in one piece. The kayak is made of recycled plastic and is reinforced with wood fibre from Swedish forests.
3D printing on an industrial scale is a relatively unexplored area. But now RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, kayak manufacturer Melker of Sweden and wood fibre producer Biofiber Tech, prove that the technology can be a sustainable replacement for conventional production methods.
In a project funded by Bioinnovation the team has developed a kayak made of wood-fibre and recycled plastic, 3D printed printed in one piece. The material, combined with the technology, opens the door to a bio-based and circular boat production.
“The mix is extremely interesting. A new type of wood fibre from Biofiber Tech allows us to use bio-based raw material and upcycle recycled plastics that are rarely used in high-demand products. One-piece 3D printing means fast, flexible and cost-effective manufacturing. The technology opens up for design flexibility and customised production. We see this as an natural part of a bio-based and circular manufacturing process for water sports products,” says Pelle Stafshede, CEO Melker of Sweden.
More uses for recycled plastics
Knowledge about what kind of materials that are suitable for 3D printing is limited. Making such a large object out of just recycled plastic had poor results, but reinforcing it with a new type of surface-treated wood fibre from Biofiber Tech made the kayak light and durable.
“Bio-composites like this one allow us to make greater use of recycled plastics in industry and increase the circularity of a range of products. Boats are just one example. In the long term, we can make furniture and other large objects from materials that are more sustainable than those used today,” says Eric Zhang, founder and CEO of Biofiber Tech.
3D printing that contributes to climate goals
3D printed kayaks could reach the market within a few years. Already, the technology can be used to produce prototypes.
To enable an industrial breakthrough, RISE proposes a solution where companies jointly invest in the new technology and set up 3D printing centres.
“We need to share knowledge and technology for 3D printing to succeed on a large scale. The technology is new and the knowledge about the implementation and the suitability of the materials is limited. With the right conditions, 3D printing can help Sweden reach its climate goals, make the transition to more sustainable production and strengthen its global competitiveness,” says Ting Yang Nilsson, project manager at RISE.