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A capture of CPSdrone

Manufacturers are building underwater 3D printers that run in aquariums and public swimming pools

Have you always wanted to see a 3D printer underwater? The guys at CPSdrone and its corresponding YouTube channel certainly did, and created a full 17-minute video breakdown of the project to prove it.

To make a system suitable for underwater use, the CPSdrone men have developed a custom printer that appears to be based on a Prusa i3. They used various epoxy resins to waterproof various parts to prevent short circuits, and replaced some metal parts that corroded quickly with plastic parts. They also decided to keep the display and power supply out of the water.

After modification, the pair tested their 3D printer in various underwater environments, including an aquarium and a public swimming pool. They tested for a full week before bringing the 3D printer into the pool.

Before I embed the video below and break down some of the key information gleaned from it, I want to provide a disclaimer. Although 3D printing underwater sounds a bit silly, there are actually some benefits to performing the process underwater. Cooling fans are no longer required to dissipate heat, which can result in higher print quality.

It’s also not the first time that underwater 3D printing has hit the headlines, although the applications here are very different. Back in 2021, Kongsberg Ferrotech talked about developing underwater 3D printing technology to be used for repairing seabed pipelines, rather than consumer/prosumer 3D printers like the one covered in this article.

But let’s not get distracted: How well does this underwater 3D printing solution from CPSdrone work? The full build process and breakdown can be found in the original 17-minute video embedded above, but I can wrap up with a few quick takeaways here.

The biggest advantage is that while 3D printing underwater works (although even the best 3D printers would require significant modification), it doesn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding the video thumbnail (showing a print in a swimming pool). Unfortunately, this achievement is actually outside the scope of what CPSdrone could achieve with this project despite their efforts.

A screenshot of the rust buildup on the ABA engine after two weeks of underwater use.

(Image credit: CPSdrone)

Before the pool test, the test worked great in an aquarium for a full week. However, during pool testing, there were stuttering problems when starting the engine due to heavy rust buildup, which would naturally accumulate in any underwater testing environment.

At the end of the video, CPSdrone also discusses some improvements that could make the process much more sustainable. “Waterproof motors” are definitely on the list.