Plastic Foamie Boater Evolution
We started making Plastic Foamie Boaters in early 2020. I was initially pretty skeptical about 3D printing boats. Everything that I saw that someone printed was pretty flimsy and cheap. I was finally convinced by a gentleman named Dan Keith who showed me through proper design, parts could be functional and durable. He has consistently blown me away with ingenious design features. If I can imagine and relay it to him, he always comes through with designs that have more then I was asking for. 3D printing is constantly getting better and better and much more feasible than making wood boats. I did a ton of testing before ever rolling out a boat for sale. Tested about a dozen different brands of plastic, as well as 4 different material types. PetG won out pretty clearly to be the best material choice. I also did tons of impact testing where I would drop them off my second story porch on to the concrete sidewalk below. Once testing was done I finally had the Play Boat ready for sale.
In 2020 I initially rolled out the Play Boat, then came the Creeker and Spud Boat designs. I also added the Mini Spud to try and use all the foam pieces I bought for the Jackson All-star Foamie Boater that never worked out. Pretty quickly we learned that the infill we were using on the boats was technically the strongest, it lacked any flexibility. I fixed this by changing infill types mid season. Also in these early days I learned that there was a choice between print quality and strength. I always chose strength, but stressed over imperfect print looks. Also we initially attached boats to bodies with 3M VHB Tape. We soon found this failed prematurely and pretty quickly switched to contact cement to attach bodies.
In 2021 we added the Slice Boat to our line up. All boats were tweaked in 2021 with a printing feature called variable layer height. This was supposed to make boats stronger at the ends (the most vulnerable points). After more testing I determined that this didn't help in my particular application and discontinued using it by end of year. I also learned that boats needed to be printed individually as multiples didn't have the same layer strength. It was eye opening to realize that even a few extra seconds between layers had such a dramatic effect on inter-layer strength. We also tweaked Creeker stern to have smaller footprint and spent a lot of time in 2021 working on Canoe design. Unfortunately the design of my beautiful Canoe had awful performance once it got in the water. Also tried working on my Super Spud. Think huge Foamie with camera mount that would be awesome for Foamie videos. The PetG wasn't strong enough to make it viable for sale yet.
In 2022 we changed lots of things. Spines were longer and extended into boats making sure every boater was perfectly centered and re-enforced the glue joint between boat and body. Dan and I completely redesigned Slice Boat. Front was totally different and on water performance was great! We also finally got the Canoe finished. I went through so many revisions that it was finally great to get the shape right. Dan's float bag top feature made sure every detail mattered. On the Creeker, I lowered the volume in the z direction and made footprint even smaller. It was just too fat top to bottom. We also went to a lower layer height in 2022. While it took a bit more time to print, it made them a bit stronger. I also had a host of printer issues in 2022. After spending months trying and replacing most parts on my machines without avail, I completely rebuilt 8 printers to make them more commercially viable. Accuracy and print quality got much better after the rebuild and I have put a lot of aggravation behind me. 2022 also brought in Arachne Perimeter generation into PrusaSlicer. A huge leap forward in printing. Finally strong boats with great print quality are realized. My boats got a good bit stronger as the printer no longer had to zig-zag between perimeters on the steep slopes of the boat hull. Now the whole shell is filled in completely. Tips got much stronger as with a new slicer feature called infill threshold. This totally filled in solid plastic in bow and stern. We also started experimenting with protective coats of Epoxy and Automotive Urethane Clear coat. While the Epoxy was better on paper, the Urethane automotive clear coat won out in my real world testing.
For 2023 I finally think I have my Plastic Boaters up to the standards of my Wooden Foamie Boaters. They have much more realistic performance since they are fully three dimensional and clearly win out on the water. I'm completely satisfied with my Spud, Play, Slice, and Canoe designs. I'm happy with their shape of these models and have tweaked each model weight down to less than a tenth of an ounce for best in water performance. I'm just finished a Creeker re-design to match the latest generation of Creek boats on the market now. On Spud Boat I tweaked seat position and dialed in weight distribution for best performance ever. Play Boat also got seat position tweaked. I also added more plastic in certain areas to dial in performance like I have previous done on my Spud Boat. On Slice Boat I added more plastic to help it Ender better and made it a bit stronger as well. Canoe got made 5% smaller, and we plan to switch from foam blade to a TPU blade. This helped performance and brought down price a hair. Canoe is also much stronger now. In 2023 I switched to American made PetG filament. Previously I had been using a quality PetG from an American company that produced it's product in China. Even this was hard to secure with explosive growth of 3D printing market, and supply chain issues due to the pandemic. I had to pay in advance and wait between 3-12 months to get preferred colors delivered. I finally was able to secure super high quality American filament made by Keene Village Plastics in Ohio. It's a much stronger filament overall, with much more impact protection. It was even stronger impact wise then some high quality PCTG I tested. This was despite manufactures claims that their PCTG has twenty times more impact protection than PeTG.