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3D Printed Port Float Collar


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I bought my first 3D printer about a year ago and have had a lot of fun learning how to print, design, and make useful tools. This is my latest project.

 

One of my common UW Camera configurations is to have a macro lens/port with two heavy diopters on a dual flip mount. This makes the rig front heavy and adds over a full pound (450g) of weight. This had me contemplating a functional custom built Port Float Collar. Most of the Nauticam Wet Optics have built in float collars, so that is one inspiration. Making a float collar that would fit over the port seems like a nice solution that does not add bulk to the setup. I've seen foam floats sold for this purpose, but that seems clunky and also, where is the fun in buying something?

 

Turn out that making a waterproof, pressure resistant object with 3D printed materials is not so easy. Even tight prints are full of microscopic holes. I made a number of block floats to experiment with, and they all leaked at depth under 2-3 atmospheres. After some trial and error and research I finally came up with an effective solution. Balancing weight of the object with desired buoyancy you can't use too much material, or the float won't add more buoyancy that it adds dry weight.  I've got a solution now that provides about a 1.3 ratio of buoyancy/mass, but I expect I can improve this more over time. 

 

Nauticam ports have a plastic foot installed with two M3 bolts. I removed the plastic foot (does anyone use that?) and used the bolt holes to fix the float to the port. 

 

Port 87 Float (CAD) (Small).png

 

Yesterday I had the chance to test my first working solution and it worked great! No leaks or implosion and the balance of the camera rig seemed to be improved! I took it to about 90 feet and didn't see bubbles. I weighed the float before and after to be sure it did not take on any water. 

 

I haven't shared a design at this point as I want to test and evaluate for a while to see if it holds up with use or needs improvements. I'll next make another sample for the Port 60 as I sometimes use that with a Kraken KRL-09s wet wide lens + diopter on the dual flip adapter.

 

Here are a few pictures of my first effort:

 

Port Collar Float for Nauticam Port 87 (105mm):

Dry Weight: 199g/7oz

Buoyancy: 355g/12.5oz

 

IMG20240408100430 (Small).jpg

 

IMG20240408101027 (Small).jpg

 

IMG20240414115702 (Small).jpg

 

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  • 1 month later...

I've made a handful of dives with the Float Collars for the Port87 and Port60 now. No problems, and they seem to work very well. Form fitting to port, securely attached, and it blends right into the rig. Balance and handling is much improved. Best of all no leaks and no implosions! I want to get at least 10-20 dives on these to declare success, including some dives below 100feet. Perhaps in a few weeks I'll be ready to share a design.

 

To get these watertight I used a clear epoxy resin that is easily painted on to the part. Aside from the fairly toxic fumes and wearing a good mask in a ventilated space, this is pretty quickly done. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

hi  @Dave_Hicks don't be to optimistic I  made a lot of complex things in 3d printing for underwater what I learned is

1) 100 feet (30 m) it's "nothing" the problems appear for me deeper as 40 m 50 m and if my part are ok after a dive at 60 m i'm happy

2) Epoxy is fine but after 50 , 100 or more dive you can have some water comming in.

I change the methode make the 3d printing lighter but cover with fiberglas + epoxy or better carbon + epoxy

 

Your 3D part is really "simple" if you are lucky it will probably be stable for 100 or more dives.

 

An other important point is if you dive in salt water or not... in salt water a little bit water in the structur of the part means the dead of this part. When water evaporate... the salt cristal... will break the material... a little bit.. and the next time a little bit more.... and after some dives more... you can put you 3d part in the trash...

 

My past experiences bring me to print now in PETG Carbon and cover with carbon and epoxy like for this new floating arm with fiberglas for the strobe going throu the arm 

nullimage.png

 

The arm before with PLA and fiberglas cover was stable during 2 years -->more than 200 dives... before water comes in after a implosion... the same problems at the same place for both arms... only 10 dive (40m) after.  

I made some small change in the structure of the piece and change the material For this part you see I hope I will have no problems during more a 400 dives...

 

 

Edited by CaolIla
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That is good input. The current design used PLA, but I have considered ABS as a stronger material. Do you have an opinion on ABS vs PETG in this application? 

 

I have another design for modular floats that snap on to ULCS arms. I haven't tested it yet with epoxy as I was try to get validation with the port floats first. 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Dave_Hicks said:

Do you have an opinion on ABS vs PETG in this application? 

I don't have any experiences in printing ABS...  PETG is realy good underwater it changed my live,,,

PLA don't like humidity... for PETG it's not a problem.

PETG is easier to print I print some "big" part... it's long 6 or 7 hours..   The last arm are in 3 parts.. for the 3 parts i need more or less of 15 hours. 

Edited by CaolIla
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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, CaolIla said:

I don't have any experiences in printing ABS...  PETG is realy good underwater it changed my live,,,

PLA don't like humidity... for PETG it's not a problem.

PETG is easier to print I print some "big" part... it's long 6 or 7 hours..   The last arm are in 3 parts.. for the 3 parts i need more or less of 15 hours. 

Most of my underwater prints have been PETG. Things exposed to the elements like 2nd Stage Regulator Purge, Optical Cable connectors and Inon330 Strobe button-blocker. They have held up well for several hundred dives with no sign of deterioration. Zoom & Focus rings I printed in PLA as they don't get much exposure. I need to make another 2nd stage regulator part and will use PETG.

 

For the Port Float I decided to go with PLA for the first draft as it would be coated with epoxy, and direct exposure to the elements would not matter so much. I am considering printing with ABS for the v2 attempt as it is supposed to have better strength than both PLA and PETG. It doesn't like UV light, but again I think a primer paint and epoxy layer will deal with that. I've not made an ABS print yet, but recently upgraded to a Bambu P1S that can print this material. I'll try it today or tomorrow.

 

I'll try to take the PLA port float down past 30 meters this week, but I rarely have cause to go as deep at 40 meters. I'll do a bounce down there if I get the chance in the next few weeks. 

Edited by Dave_Hicks
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12 hours ago, CaolIla said:

hi  @Dave_Hicks don't be to optimistic I  made a lot of complex things in 3d printing for underwater what I learned is

1) 100 feet (30 m) it's "nothing" the problems appear for me deeper as 40 m 50 m and if my part are ok after a dive at 60 m i'm happy

2) Epoxy is fine but after 50 , 100 or more dive you can have some water comming in.

I change the methode make the 3d printing lighter but cover with fiberglas + epoxy or better carbon + epoxy

 

Your 3D part is really "simple" if you are lucky it will probably be stable for 100 or more dives.

 

An other important point is if you dive in salt water or not... in salt water a little bit water in the structur of the part means the dead of this part. When water evaporate... the salt cristal... will break the material... a little bit.. and the next time a little bit more.... and after some dives more... you can put you 3d part in the trash...

 

My past experiences bring me to print now in PETG Carbon and cover with carbon and epoxy like for this new floating arm with fiberglas for the strobe going throu the arm 

nullimage.png

 

The arm before with PLA and fiberglas cover was stable during 2 years -->more than 200 dives... before water comes in after a implosion... the same problems at the same place for both arms... only 10 dive (40m) after.  

I made some small change in the structure of the piece and change the material For this part you see I hope I will have no problems during more a 400 dives...

 

 

 

How are you applying the Carbon or Fiberglas coating to your parts? What material are you using?

 

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4 minutes ago, FrancoisC said:

I wonder if FLEX/TPU is less prone to have water going inside...

 

Salut François

FLEX/TPU --> Change the volume if you down.

PETG is really good for parts going in water.
 

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15 minutes ago, Dave_Hicks said:

How are you applying the Carbon or Fiberglas coating to your parts? What material are you using?


I apply the epoxy resin, then I cover with carbon or glass fabric. Once the curing is done, I sand and finish with one or more coats of finish.
It's a bit of work and especially time... but what a satisfaction to have THE piece as imagined

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