The 3D print revolution is coming for the pool and spa industry!
Used everywhere from fashion and jewellery design to the rarefied world of archaeology, 3D printing is bringing new objects to life in profound and exciting ways. More and more manufacturers are moving towards products that can be reproduced anywhere in the world. However, this is where it gets interesting – consumers are about to become producers themselves! Here are some tips for the pool and spa industry, so that we can all benefit from this important technological shift.
Caption: A laser-scanned and 3D printed Viking Belt Buckle. A unique project in which a 1000-year-old Viking belt buckle was laser scanned and 3D printed to achieve an exact copy of unique archaeological artefact. Image Source
The Cost of 3D Printing Devices
The cost of these devices can range from anywhere between $1,500 to $10,000 depending on the size and sophistication of the model. Some models can be the size of a family fridge and others only the size of a woman's handbag. Many consumer-grade printers can be purchased for about $2,000 and produce bespoke items like garden gnomes or hose pipes straight from the CAD design specs.
While personal 3-D printers are still something of a novelty, they're on the fast track to becoming mainstream. MakerBot, which sells consumer-grade printers between $1,500 and $6,500, recently opened its second and third stores in the US, where customers are invited to design and print everything from Christmas tree ornaments to garden gnomes. Thingverse is a particularly cool file sharing website, where you can pick up a prototype CAD design for pool equipment like chlorine dispensers and pool vacuum parts. Thingverse has fostered a growing community spirit between like-minded 3D printing enthusiasts and clever inventors.
Caption: 3D printed sun sprocket grip rings made from gold plated brass. Image Source
The Benefits of 3D Printing
- There are no long and protracted waits for parts or mock-up products to arrive from China or elsewhere.
- The ability to see, touch and experience a mock-up product before actually ordering it from a far-flung destination.
- Increased room for experimentation, trial and error when designing and modelling products, with no lag time between prototype and delivery.
- An even playing field with a variety of innovative ideas to come out of experimentation and greater creative freedom.
Caption: 3D printed Octopus using PLA Plastic Image Source
If you can't afford to fork out the hefty few thousand dollars for a 3D printer yourself, then don't worry! You can simply lease one online and get someone else to print the CAD design for you. Shapeways.com is the perfect Santa's workshop when those little wheels at the base of your table that have broken, or when the moulding on your light fixtures snap. This is the ultimate place to find CAD designs for those thingamabobs that can't really be found elsewhere.
All you need to do is get a hold of some prototype designs for everyday items and get them made and delivered to your home or workplace. In terms of pool products, you can purchase a vaccuum pusher jet kit, pool cleaners and more. Although generally these fanciful knock-offs are far more expensive than the real deal, so prepare to pay through the nose for the novelty factor of using a 3D printer, until they are more widely used.
Submorphers are shape-shifting pool toys for kids in the same vein as Transformers, except with underwater propulsion. Although the real reason that Submorphers are interesting is how they were made. Using a CAD program called Solidworks, plastic and a 3D printing machine.
So far the pool industry as a whole has embraced 3D printing for creating pool noodles, water guns, pool vacuum parts, water cannons and more. This is both exciting and scary news for the old school manufacturers who do things by the book. There are some lone wolves in our midst who are changing everything and carving out a unique niche for themselves. It's reminiscent of how bit-torrent file sharing changed the music industry a decade ago. 3D printing technology allows incredibly creative and technically-inclined people to create objects of infinite possibility.
3D Printing: A Cautionary Tale
The 3D print revolution hasn't yet sounded the death knell of pool manufacturing – most likely it won't. It simply marries the design and manufacturing parts of the business in a much more tightly bound way. 3D printing provides manufacturers with the benefits of hands on manipulation of designs; and trial and error experimentation than ever before.
Although manufacturers advise against consumers creating their own 3D spare part knock-offs for everyday goods. These items are much more likely to fall short in terms of quality, reliability and safety. There are no guarantees with DIY items. They also aren't rigorously tested for safe use. They won't be as fine tuned as a manufacturer's original parts.
Big manufacturers of pool and spa products don't appear concerned yet about 3D printing hobbyists. The trend will take some major financial backing to take 3D printing to the next level of popular consciousness.
In the meantime, lone wolves like Dr. Richard A. DeVerse have been working hard to produce innovative and unique pool products. He was the inventor of the FlowVis, an incredibly innovative product sold by Evoheat that monitors flow rates in pools, saving consumers on needless energy costs. Dr. DeVerse is very prolific and has developed a number of other 3D innovations in his workshop in Kona, Hawaii, customising them with colours and branding for clients.
The day when factory-made goods and home-made goods are indistinguishable may not be as far away as we first thought! Tell us your thoughts on 3D printing below. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to stay on the pulse of what's happening in the pool and spa industry.
Caption: Quadrifolium 3D print Image Source