3D printed fins take surfing to the next level


So I’ve been working on 3D printing for the last 50 years. Where for the last year we’ve been working on developing new materials but also 3D printing technology for printing fins for surfboards. So what makes 3D printed fins different from the current fins that you buy in your shop? The difference lies in the fact that we can print fins very fast and we can make changes to the design extremely fast. So on a day cycle, we can go through three or four different sets of designs of fins. So we can design something and then a few hours later we have 3D printed fins coming out of our printer, and they’re ready to work when they come off the printer. So for some surf breaks you need stiff fins for other surf breaks you need flexible fins. So the materials and the fins that we are developing are made and 3D printed with a different range of materials properties, and they go from flexible to fully stiff and that’s one of the things that we’re investigating and we’re not just doing this on perception, where surfers tell us that the fins are stiff. We mechanically test our fins in the lab and then use tracking technology to compare the speed, the angles, and the acceleration that these fins can generate on the real-world conditions in waves. So we’re looking for new materials, and we’re testing for different materials than what the commercial fin makers can give you, and we’re looking at whole bunch of different composite materials. Using different printing technology all with the aim to make our materials cheaper and eventually on printers that are readily accessible to people, because normally if you want the fin you really have to go with what a manufacturer gives you. Where as, if you want a surfboard, you can go to your local surfboard shop and you can get exactly what you want. So they differ on the type of materials that we’re going to use. Most of the commercial fins are made by injection moulding or they put different layered materials in. What we can do, we can do individual solutions because we have more control over the material. My role in terms was helping Marc start up the project but basically now testing fins in terms of logging hours with trace data so we can get a baseline for different fins, and then now just testing the actual 3D printed fins and see how they compare to what is already currently in the market and I guess the idea was we were able to maybe print a fin, and then change it, within hours, and then the surfer could go well this fin feels too thick or too thin, and be able to give them that instant customised design to suit the specific surfer in that ride. So basically customised fins for everyone in that regards.

Antonio Breitenberg

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