When you think about underwater propulsion, you probably picture submarines or the sea scooters used by scuba divers. You imagine bulky vehicles that you either ride in or ride on. Archie O’Brien had something new in mind, and 3D-printed his wearable underwater jetpack when he was still a student at Loughborough University in England.
O’Brien was originally inspired by Seabob, which is an underwater, rideable vehicle similar to the sea scooters used by divers. But, the $17,000 price tag was just too much to justify. He imagined a similar device that could be worn like a backpack and that would feel like an underwater jetpack. He began building his design from 3D-printed parts as a student project, and now CUDA is set to go into production next year.
CUDA’s propulsion system is similar to what you’d find on a jet ski, with an impeller forcing water through outlet ports on the bottom. Almost all of the prototype parts were printed through the 3D Hubs service, though the drive shaft was turned on a lathe and the heatsink was machined on a CNC mill. That heatsink is necessary because the impeller is driven by an electric motor, and the heatsink takes advantage of the water to cool the batteries and motor. We don’t know how long it can operate on a charge, but the batteries are designed to be swapped quickly for extended use. CUDA is currently planned for a production launch in Q2 2019.