Category Archives: Hull

Waterproofing 3D Prints (and also making them look super-cool) with Epoxy Clay

It’s pretty hard to get a watertight object out of our Makerbot Thing-O-Matic.  The walls of printed objects are pretty solid, but unexpectedly porous; even a thick block printed with 100% infill will allow water to penetrate it due to errors around the edges and imperfectly fused strands of plastic.  If you want to make a hollow object waterproof you’re going to have to do some post-processing.

It gets worse when the object is a curved surface, as is my AUV hull.  I’ve read that objects can be made watertight by adding outer shells.  That may be true for some objects, but on objects that curve along the z-axis the number of shells exposed to the surface grows as the tangent plane gets closer to parallel to the printer’s build platform—and big holes start to form.

My hull doesn’t actually have to be watertight, it’s a wet hull.  But it has to be airtight in order to hold the bubble of gas that controls the robot’s buoyancy.  Here’s what the airtight hull looks like:

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Cravenly resorting to commercial solutions in underwater solenoid valves

I’m having trouble with the upper valve that will allow air to be released from the hull (thus decreasing buoyancy and giving some downward thrust).  I mean, I’m having trouble with everything, but that’s why I’m doing this, right?  Anyway, I decided to order a couple underwater solenoid valves in the hope that I could stick one in the robot and have it work (hahahahaha).  I found several suppliers in China listed on this site, and settled on Nuoling Pneumatic.  Most of the other options either weren’t waterproof, were too big, didn’t support a 12 V power supply, or had a large minimum order size. The two I bought were $12.35 each, which is less than I was expecting (although the shipping was $55 for two units).

Underwater solenoid valve from Nuoling Pneumatic

Underwater solenoid valve from Nuoling Pneumatic

The valves were a lot bigger and heavier than I expected.  You can see it’s basically a big chunk of brass connected to the waterproof electrical components.  Fortunately it’s easy to take apart:

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Finished 3D-printed AUV hull

The hull is done for now.  As I mentioned before, I have some improvements in mind (mainly to get rid of the outer bolts), but it took about 34 hours to print all eight pieces and I’m not eager to do it again.  If I ever get around to putting motors on this thing then I will have to re-print at least four of the semidemihemispheres, as the current ones don’t have any mounting points for motor attachments.

Pictures and video follow:

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What I learnt making a 3D printable AUV hull (Part 2)

I printed four copies of the semidemihemisphere and refined it a bit as I went.  Here’s the whole thing, including the hull that I covered in my last log entry.  The only difference in the hull is I removed the top hole, as only two of the semidemihemispheres need it (as valve mounting holes).

Tweaked version of the AUV model.

Tweaked version of the AUV model.

I made a few interesting changes to the cutaway portion though:

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What I learnt making a 3D printable AUV hull (Part 1)

I did a bit of testing on my AUV hull design, and finally got a prototype ready to go.  I’ve been working on the design for several months in Autodesk 123d, which is a pretty great program if you can put up with the crashes, corrupt save files, and slowness (hey, it’s beta).

Here is my current design in full, including the support structures:

Spherical Autonomous Underwater Vehicle hull

The 3D model for my spherical AUV hull.

This is one eighth of the hull; I call it a semidemihemisphere.  Eight of these will make a sphere 18 cm in diameter.  I split it up into eighths because I’m using a Makerbot 3D printer and its build platform is limited to a cube about 10 cm to a side.  Also, this way each piece can be identical (or nearly so).

One limitation in the Makerbot is that it can’t print overhangs very well, so I had to add some support structures that can be cut away.  In this entry I will ignore that and focus on the hull design:

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Forget the title of that last post: developing an AUV hull in 123D

I’m working on a prototype for the AUV hull.  I plan to print a 10 cm diameter hollowish sphere and use it to develop a buoyancy system.

It’s not easy to print a large sphere on a Makerbot.  There are a lot of cool sphere things on Thingiverse, including some pretty sweet hollow sphere patterns.  That hollow sphere is allegedly printable on a Makerbot, but I’m not sure it’s the best option for my AUV.

I’m working on a design for a self-supporting hemisphere in Autodesk’s new 123D CAD program.

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