The Create Cafe in Saskatoon, Canada offers patrons a friendly place to sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee, and get started on a 3D printing project. The cafe, co-owned by Dustin Maki and Randy Janes, opened its doors a year ago, and is home to several desktop 3D printers, as well as the 28′ x 5′ x 7′ Printtron, the largest 3D printer in North America.

Recently, the Printtron completed a massive project that it only began nine days prior – the world’s first 3D printed camper. Additionally, the camper is the largest indoor 3D print ever completed.

“It’s kind of surreal. If you’re familiar with 3D printing, a little table top item that’s five inches tall can take upwards of one day,” said Janes, who is also the owner of Wave of the Future 3D. “I just printed an entire trailer in just over a week.”

It took a little over 230 hours to 3D print the full-size camper prototype, called The Wave, on-site at Create Cafe. The camper, which has an astonishing 100-year life expectancy, weighs 600 lbs and stands 6′ wide and 13′ long, and can be taken off of its base and put on stilts for a more permanent position; it also has three covered holes in the floor so it can be used as an ice-fishing hut in the cold Canadian winters.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of different distributors throughout Canada asking how they can stock these in their stores. Even guys that don’t like camping are loving the fact that this is the first trailer in the world for which you don’t have to have a chassis,” Janes said.

Randy Janes poses in front of what’s being dubbed the first 3D printed camper in the world. [Image: Ashley Field, CTV Saskatoon]

Once the 3D printed camper goes past the prototyping stage and is fitted with windows, electronics, and appliances, it will be available for sale on the commercial market, hopefully by the end of the year.

Janes worked in the recreational vehicle (RV) field for over ten years, and thought up the idea of a 3D printed camper two years ago as an innovative way to solve one of the major issues in the camper industry – water damage.

“People invest a lot of money in their RV. And you know, within five, 10, 15 years, three quarters of that investment is either rotted or molded away. With my structure you wouldn’t get any of that,” Janes said.

“So even if they want to change the windows, the appliances, the shape, they can pick and choose and customize pretty much 100 per cent, which is unheard of in the RV industry.”

The solution was to 3D print The Wave out of plastic in one huge, solid piece using PETG pellets. 3D printing technology allowed Janes to have more flexibility with the design, and because it doesn’t have any seams, it’s airtight and far more resistant to water than regular campers.

The interior of the 3D printed camper, made in Saskatoon. [Image: Ashley Field, CTV Saskatoon]

The huge, high-flow nozzles used to 3D print the 10.3 mm layers of the camper were provided by Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

“We’ve been doing 3D printing for 23 years at Sask Polytech, and in that time we’ve never seen a project this huge. We were very excited to be involved in this project,” said Tim Muench, Program Head for the Mechanical Engineering Technology programs at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

“In order to produce parts that big, you have to flow some really high amounts of plastic through a nozzle. The size difference between the nozzle you’ll see on a regular printer is really huge.”

There were a few issues during the nine-day 3D printing process, such as an unexpected software reboot, but for the prototype of the largest single indoor 3D print in the world, things went pretty swimmingly.

Create Cafe CEO Dustin Maki said, “We had some mechanical difficulties, which is expected when you’re printing for over 230 hours. We were able to overcome those and bound together as a team.

“So it’s 3.5 times bigger than the previous world record and that’s because it’s done in one piece. Nobody has ever accomplished a one piece print that’s of this stature.”

The Wave beat ORNL‘s record for largest indoor 3D print, for a tool used on a Boeing airplane wing – a record which was also recently topped in length.

ORNL actually helped the team with the project by reviewing the files, 3D-Fuel offered a helping hand with materials while Automated Metal Processing Ltd helped with custom metal plates, and ErectorBot, Inc. provided, according to Create Cafe’s Facebook page, “continual assistance and support throughout the year.”

In the future, Janes wants to build different versions of The Wave, including 16′ and 19′ models and a truck bed model.

“The 16-footer will be a little bit wider and a little bit taller. If I can pull that one off, realistically I’ll be breaking my world record again,” said Janes.

In addition, two students from Sask Polytech are working on a research project about the 3D printed camper. They’re looking for ways to reduce vibrations during the 3D printing process, so that Create Cafe can print out more trailers in a shorter amount of time.

Maki said, “As we move forward we’re hoping to get them down to less than a week per print.”

The Wave was on display at Create Cafe last week, and will soon be headed to the Saskatoon Sports and Leisure show.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.

[Sources: CTV News Saskatoon, Global News / Images: Create Cafe via Facebook unless otherwise noted]


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