Red Bull High Performance reached out to 3D printing service Proto3000 directly with the ambition of creating the world’s first (entirely) 3D printed surfboard. The concept of the project was to take a traditional surfboard design and produce an exact replica. Current methodologies involve human inaccuracies such as foam cutting and molding.
3D printing helps to eliminate the need for all of that by allowing complex and very specific designs for balance and maneuverability. Furthermore, a 3D printed surfboard could be customized and fitted for specific surfers with their preference of weight and shape. Together with Red Bull, Proto3000 modeled the surfboard after Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning’s 2014 Trestles Board which can be described effectively as the ocean equivalent of an F1 race car. To print a board good enough for a high caliber surfer such as Fanning, Proto3000 knew we had to get every detail perfect including the shape, angles and other little nuances.
Using the Fortus 900mc 3D printer from Stratasys, the Proto3000 team printed the prototype composed of ABS-M30 material which is a production-grade thermoplastic engineered for 3D printing with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers. The entire process took about a month to fully realize into a prototype.
According to Chris McAloney, Engineering Operations Manager at Proto3000, one of the main challenges we encountered while designing the surfboard was weight.
“The whole concept of the board is that it can’t be too heavy. If it’s too heavy it can’t be maneuverable or balance properly. To the end it was still something of a challenge as it was still overweight, but we were able to reduce a lot of it by manipulating the internal structure with honeycomb patterns.”
To combat this in the future, we would most likely 3D print the frame or ribbing of the surfboard and produce the board itself out of a dissolvable core to ensure a light weight. McAloney explains,
“So now you print the digital design as a largely dissolvable core, wrap the fibrous material around it and seal it, and then we dissolve away the core. And what you’re left with is a seamless wrap, and an extremely light board that has minimal material on the inside for strength.” Chris McAloney, Engineering Operations Manager at Proto3000.
Moving forward, the company sees 3D printing and additive manufacturing methods a playing a huge role in the future of the sports industry. Specifically, the largest impact that this technology will have is in the manufacturing and design process.
“We’re starting to see a lot of things take off in the sporting industry with 3D printing, specifically in the manufacturing of customized equipment. Anything where there’s a direct interface between a product and an athlete.” Chris McAloney stated.
A great example is in manufacturing high performance bicycles where 3D printing and laser scanning could print customized handlebars and frame support that provides the rider with increased comfort, ergonomics, and airflow. 3D printing and additive manufacturing go beyond creating an end part; this technology will revolutionize the manufacturing process of traditional sports equipment and gear by improving efficiencies, decreasing your lead times and decreasing costs.