TAHOE Boats' T16 uses 3D printed tooling from Thermwood

Thermwood’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) system was utilized to custom-print the tool used to manufacture the boat’s hull.

TAHOE Boats (Springfield, MO, US), part of White River Marine Group (Springfield, MO, US), the marine manufacturing arm of Bass Pro Shops (Springfield, MO, US), has announced its new T16 boat design, an affordable lightweight design engineered with families in mind. The company claims the boat design was made possible in part by exploring innovative techniques never before before used in the marine industry.

White River worked with Thermwood Corp. (Dale, IN, US), utilizing Thermwood’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) system to custom-print the tool used to manufacture the boat’s hull. According to TAHOE Boats, this is the first time 3D printing has been used on actual boat production at this scale. The company says the technology led to greater efficiency in the T16’s planning, design and construction.

Thermwood printed the master pattern for the boat hull at its Development/Demonstration Labs in Dale, IN, US. The pattern was printed in six sections from 20% carbon fiber filled ABS supplied by Techmer PM (Clinton, TN, US). The joints between the pieces were machined, pinned and bonded together and the assembled hull was then machined to final size and shape. The process was reportedly completed in ten days. After printing and machining, the tool was sent to White River where they applied, sanded and polished a proprietary coating.

Of course, technology continues to advance. According to Thermwood, this type of tool can now be produced in even less time using the company’s Vertical Layer Printing, which wasn’t yet available at the time the aforementioned tool was made. A similar tool can now be printed as one piece in just over two days, eliminating the machining between sections and the bonding process.

“Additive manufacturing has the potential to dramatically change the way boats are built” says Thermwood’s founder, Chairman and CEO, Ken Susnjara

Master patterns, such as the tool created for TAHOE Boats, are used to make molds for high production rates where multiple molds are required. For larger boats or lower production rates, Thermwood says it may be possible to print the actual mold itself. The company recently announced the successful production of a seven foot long, 1/7 scale model of a yacht hull mold using Vertical Layer Printing. 

Could large scale additive manufacturing transform production methods in the marine industry? While it’s still early in the development of such processes, it seems that large scale additive manufacturing could hold the potential to reduce tooling costs and speed up the tool building process.