Sometimes we sit back with a smile and think: ‘Ah, shipping containers – is there nothing you can’t do?’ But, of course, there are a number of things they can’t do. They struggle to dance, for instance. And they don’t know what makes a good cocktail. And they sure can’t magic cars up out of thin air…
Actually, strike that. Magicking up cars is precisely what shipping containers can do. Well, sort of.
One Step Beyond
It’s all thanks to tech-head Andy Tran, who founded Southwest FL 3D. The Floridian 3D printing company has been experimenting with the concept of a large 3D printer, and while he’s not alone in that regard, Tran’s innovative mind has allowed his company to go one step beyond.
See, one of the major issues with 3D printing on a larger scale is finding the appropriate frame. This isn’t a problem for standard-sized printers, which don’t typically produce anything you couldn’t fit on your desk, but if you were looking to print, say, a full-sized vehicle, your everyday 3D printer isn’t going to cut it. So you turn to the larger varieties, only to discover that everyone who’s making them are still struggling to devote enough time and money into creating a frame to house the printer.
The Enterprising Entrepreneur
Not so for Tran. In an interview with 3DPrint.com, the enterprising entrepreneur stated: ‘Shipping containers offer a super-rigid frame. When you start building a large machine, one of the largest costs is the frame. The Mille solves this with its design and uses water-tight, weather-proof shipping container hull. 3D printer hardware bolts directly to the steel walls. Shipping containers offer standard interior and exterior sizes, so virtually any container can be retro-fitted.’
So it’s shipping containers standardised nature – a 20ft or 40ft container will be the same the world over – that allow Tran to implement the Mille 3D printers inside. More than that, though, is just how mobile shipping containers are; after all, they’re designed that way. So we could, in time, be looking at a world where the global shipping lanes are full of containers that, rather than carrying goods, are empty, save for the 3D printer.
We think it is, in fact, the perfect partnership, with yet another fine reason to re-use shipping containers – rather than scrapping them or leaving them to rot – and also creating a far cheaper, more mobile aspect to the fledgling world of 3D printing. It could just be the break the technology has needed, in order to bring it to those all-important business clients. It’s industry, after all, that needs to join the 3D printing revolution in order for it to truly take off. Coupling that with the familiarity of the shipping container, which those in logistics will be strongly at home with, is the masterstroke this project needs. Logistical companies will be one of the major target markets for the Mille 3D Printer, given Tran’s desire to one day have businesses printing whole fleets of vehicles from inside the container.
Reusing Shipping Containers
Speaking about the project, Tran said: ‘The Mille 3D Printer has been in concept since I started 3D printing. I always had an interest in reusing shipping containers, and the idea came when I merged the two. It would offer a new use for these containers, and offer a standard platform for different machines. The Mille 3D Printer offers a large format platform that is unprecedented in the industry. You can stack machines, ship them across the country, and park them in your driveway or garage. Ship them empty, and at the end of a road trip open the doors to a new object.’
So what do you think? Could Tran and the Mille 3D Printer work well by using the shipping container? As leading industry provider of shipping containers and steel storage units in London, we’re genuinely excited to see how this particular project pans out. And, naturally, for all your other requirements, you can just contact us on 0208 459 6972 and we’ll be delighted to help.