Feb. 16, 2015 | Alec

That 3D printing technology is perfect for producing plastic toys, hardly needs to be repeated here. After all, the majority of FDM 3D printers are being used for exactly that purpose. While some inventive makers and businesses are also 3D printing large and functional objects in plastic, who would’ve ever thought of 3D printing a custom surfboard that can traverse the waves?

That’s basically what the remarkably successful Australian start-up Disrupt Industries is dreaming of. This young start-up is located in Bondi, right near the famous Sydney beaches. Started by entrepreneur and surfing nut Gary Elphick six months ago, they offer a very fun and attractive customization process that perfectly captures what 3D printing is all about. And they will even help you save a bit of money.

In a nutshell, they help you create your own customized surfboard, featuring whatever design you want, using 3D printing. "Our mission is to help you create and share your own customized surfboard. You tell us all about yourself, your ability and what you’re trying to achieve with your surfing. We use 3D printing design technology to make a digital set up of your board, you direct the art, finish and design and we finish the rest," Gary writes on his website.

Disrupt Industries thus doesn’t quite 3D print a surfboard (which are made out of foam coated in resin, not exactly a 3D printing material), but do use 3D printing to shape the customization process. Just like any FDM printing project, 3D modeling software and a 3D printer is used to prototype, design and improve. But instead of 3D printing a final iteration, that 3D model file is sent to surfboard manufacturers in China or Thailand, where the actual, wave-worthy board is created from long lasting and eco-friendly materials. "We do all the designs using a 3D render here in Bondi. When we’re happy we upload the digital files to one of our two factories, in Thailand and the south of China. We have a have an Australian quality control team that fly over to oversee the final shaping, glassing and curing before flying back to receive the boards," he explains.

As is the case in the best custom creation projects, Disrupt Industries thus offers their customers complete design freedom – perfect for the 21st century individual. If you’re a designer yourself, perfect! Through the Disrupt Industries website you can find all the files necessary to design your own board, and once satisfied you can just send it to them.

But perhaps the most attractive feature is the price tag involved; Elphick explains that a customised surfboard can quickly cost you something around $1200, while a store-bought mass-produced alternative easily costs $800. "Most people don’t realise the cost of making most of the boards sold in your local shop (yes inc all the well known brands)  is actually relatively low. The majority of what you pay (c. 40%) is for the retailers overheads (rent, wages etc), next about 30% of what you pay goes towards those big marketing campaigns, sponsoring pros and logistics. We cut all of that out."

Consequently, you have to order one of these surfboards online and you’ll never see it in a shop, but you only pay about $400 to $600. "We don’t want to pay $1000 for a board and we don’t think you should have to either," Gary adds.

Unsurprisingly, Disrupt Industries has been very successful already, selling over 700 individualized surfboards already, as well as hundreds of customized accessories as well. As Gary told reporters, he never expected all the curious requests and design plans when he first started. "I thought it would just be a case of a long board or a short board or slight tweaks but every single board has been completely different," Gary says. "We’ve had ones for people’s weddings and for newborn babies, we’ve had a completely round board and vintage designs from the ’70s, and we had an Aboriginal artist come to us to incorporate their art in a board with the idea to combine old and new Australia."

Gary is therefore currently looking towards the future with some seriously ambitions plans, and he has good reason to. There are 30 million surfers throughout the world, while about 4 million surfboards are sold annually. That’s a pretty big market to get stuck into, while the same design process could just as easily be applied to other areas of sports hardware. On the long term, he’s also looking to sell access to a software library of surfboard designs, that can be used to create boards wherever you are. Gary even speculates that it could be used to 3D print entire surfboards in the near future.

As part of that ambitious gaze towards the future, Disrupt Industries is one of eleven start-ups that are joining the Australian start-up accelerator program Muru-D, of Telstra. As part of that program, all participants are given $40,000 in seed capital, as well as six months of mentoring and development. In return, Muru-D takes 6 per cent of equity. Muru-D is even taking Disrupt and the other participants on a ten-day trip to China in March, to meet potential investors and promote their brand. While not exactly known as a surfing nation, China is the largest market in the world, so even a small success quickly means thousands of clients. As muru-D co-founder Mick Liubinskas said, "Even if not one of the businesses had a China angle, there’s immense value in taking people out of the local market and putting them to a very big market."

Even business cards and promotional media have already been translated into Chinese.

Of Disrupt Annie Parker, co-founder of Muru-D said: "They’ve already got a business, which is a fantastic thing. They’ve already got customers designing their products on their platform and the challenge for those guys is how can they make that a really global, disruptive business." And it will be very interesting to see how they do.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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