The UK's Archie O'Brien had a dream of zipping below the waters off Iceland or swimming with dolphins off the coast of Bora Bora. He looked at contraptions that would pull him along underwater at speed – something like the AquaJet H2 or Scubalec, for example – but everything already available proved beyond his reach. So he decided to design and build the Cuda underwater jetpack, which will be going into production early next year.
O'Brien developed the Cuda while in his final year at the Loughborough Design School in Leicestershire, noting that existing products were either too heavy, too slow or far too expensive. His original idea was simply to try and shrink down a jet ski engine so that it could be worn as a jetpack, but this didn't hold water.
The Cuda is about the size of a small backpack and has been built around a patented propulsion system. No details of exactly how this works have been made available, though Amsterdam's 3D Hubs was responsible for making the impeller, which was SLS printed using carbon fiber-infused powder, chosen for its stiffness.
For the rest of the Cuda, which can be assembled in less than 10 minutes, O'Brien has used a combination of CNC machining, turning and, mainly, 3D printing. The latter making use of low cost and commonplace Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology and PLA materials. To keep the Cuda prototype running smoothly underwater, all 45 3D-printed components were coated in a thin layer of epoxy resin and the access hatches for the hotswap rechargeable batteries and electronics were treated to silicone seals.
The speed of the Cuda prototype is controlled by a handheld remote, but otherwise leaves the hands free, and direction is altered by moving the body. It's been tested in swimming pools and open water, and O'Brien now aims to take the Cuda into production during Q2 2019.
You can see O'Brien putting the Cuda together and taking to the swimming pool in the video below.
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