Can a 3D printer be made from a shipping container? It turns out, yes, it can.
Florida-based Millebot has taken on this challenge as their prime product: 3D printers in shipping containers. No, I don’t mean a shipping container filled with 3D printers, as one frequently sees crossing the Pacific, but rather that the shipping container IS the 3D printer.
Take a look at the images here. What Millebot has done is use the shipping container as the frame and enclosure for the 3D printing mechanism. Yes, it’s quite a bit larger than your average 3D printer, but as such these machines can 3D print rather large objects.
Currently, Millebot offers three different printers: the Mille 100, which sports a 3-axis motion system that can take on a 3D print toolhead; the Mille 300, which adds inspection equipment to verify proper production; and the Mille 500XL, which offers additive, subtractive and inspection equipment with six axes of motion all in one shipping container.
Large-Format Thermoplastic Printing
They are designed to 3D print thermoplastic material and use a pellet extruder to ensure a low cost of input material. As you might imagine, the nozzle size is large on these machines, ranging from 1-3 mm. Layer sizes are also large, but this doesn’t really matter for prints of this size.
All of these machines are configured as standard industrial equipment; they include touchscreens that would be familiar to major equipment operators, and can be made to expandable lengths, presumably by bolting multiple containers end-to-end.
What’s quite interesting about these machines is their environmental capabilities. They are specifically designed to operate both indoors and outdoors. Thus, if you had a need to set up a temporary manufacturing facility in a remote location, you could chopper in one of these machines to do the job. They can even be stacked to place many together for parallel work.
Ocean Ready 3D Printing
Even more interesting is that the devices are said to be “ISO Certified Ocean ready”. This means they could theoretically be installed on ocean-going ships to provide spare parts enroute, for example. Another concept could be as a kind of ocean-going mobile factory that could sail to a remote location and begin making parts.
As you might imagine, these devices are all custom build to each order, as clients likely have slightly different needs. As such, there is no standard pricing for these models; you’ll get that when you negotiate with Millebot.
If you’re in the need for large-scale remote 3D printing, then consider the Millebot options.