When you imagine 3D printing I’m sure small toys and little gizmos are the first things that come to mind, well the Australian company Disrupt Surfing is hoping to change all that with their newest prototypes of custom 3D printed surfboards; allowing the consumer to create a board perfectly tuned for their liking. This great ability to customize your own product would have so many implications for mass production of products with nearly limitless customization in design, material and more. Just imagining the lengths this could extend to be exciting, you could choose the material, infill, and you could in theory, even have a hybrid print to have your logo or anything printed into the material; the possibilities are endless. Though I think the idea that makes me more excited than my own designer surfboard, would be if other companies adopted this idea of infinite customizability. Imagine if your smartphone could be made out of a grippy and drop resistant rubber with an inner case of rigid plastic and have any graphic on the back straight from the manufacturer.
Currently, as far as custom boards are concerned, you can send files to have them cut from foam and assembled by hand. This severely limits both the creativity of the design, relying on the assembly of whoever is working that day to ensure the strength and performance of the board, and the man hours it takes to assemble and paint a board then quality check all the steps along the way. With 3D printing there’s no need for assembly as it can be printed as one solid piece and the quality is left to a machine that is far more precise than a human could ever be, plus the graphics are throughout the thickness of the board meaning no matter how worn the design won’t lose quality through use. As it stands they also save a lot of time and money with this additive process instead of wasting foam by cutting and sanding it down, potentially reducing cost for the consumers. 3D printing, however creates a finished product with no need for refinement plus they hope to allow for recycling and reusing the materials to reprint boards that have been damaged. All around 3D printing sounds like a more and more logical option for companies that normally will or have some other subtractive process for cost saving measures.
Disrupt has been working on sourcing materials from a china based company that are both 3D printable and have all the qualities you’d want in a surfboard especially less dense and equally durable one, which, when you think about it, it’s relatively simple and hopefully they can find something optimal for their business. Disrupt Surfing are optimistic that they’ll be able to create and optimize the whole commercial manufacturing process within the course of the next two years and full scale prototyping with the next year. So far their prototyping has incorporated a hybrid print of a cork like material in a hexagonal infill with a hard nylon surface for rigidity and extremely good resistance to weather and wear from heavy usage and the elements you’d expect to encounter in the sea. All around making great strides in creating fully finished products with 3D printers and stepping away from their purely prototyping days of the past. though I can definitely see why it’s not perfect for many industries like the ones that need really strong, solid component, maybe what you would find in an engine or other tough mechanical system, in any case more plastic products that allow more creativity and individuality for everyone sounds like a fantastic idea to me.