Jun 1, 2017 | By Tess

Mick Fanning, the professional Australian surfer also known as “White Lightning,” recently hit the waves on the MF 3D Board, the first ever 3D printed surfboard. Developed by Red Bull High Performance engineer Brandon Larson, the 3D printed surfboard could mark a significant technological breakthrough in the sport of surfing.

The 3D printed board itself has been in development for some time and is based on another of Fanning’s boards, called Mayhem. While the 3D printed surfboard is still in its prototyping stage, the fact that its rideable—as showcased by the Aussie pro—suggests that 3D printing could play a significant role in the wave-riding sport.

“The whole point was to explore what was possible and see if you could create a 3D printed performance surfboard,” said Larson. “And the answer is: absolutely you can.”

The Red Bull engineer went on to explain that in replicating Fanning’s Mayhem surfboard using 3D printing, he used digital fabrication techniques usually reserved for aerospace applications such as manufacturing parts for aircraft wings or fuselage. And while Larson used his own expertise in digitally replicating the Mayhem board, he turned to Canadian 3D printing company Proto3000 to actually manufacture the board.

Fanning’s surfboard was first 3D printed in ten separate parts (a process which took roughly 100 hours to complete). Then, very carefully, the printed parts were pieced and glued together to form the entire deck. When the individual parts were securely glued, the board was sealed with fiberglass, or as the pros say, it was “glassed.”

“3D printing is highly advantageous because it’s as close to perfection as possible and it’s repeatable,” explained Larson. “There are little minute details in the board that are very hard to shape by hand consistently when somebody’s using sandpaper on foam—the rail transitions, sharpness of edges, concaves, the exact perfect shape of the rail and the consistency of that.”

3D printing, as we well know at 3Ders, is perhaps the best manufacturing method when looking for customization with repeatable quality, making it ideal for replicating. According to both Larson and Mick “White Lightning” Fanning, the 3D printed board was perfectly replicated, from every curve to every angle.

Still, the board is in its prototyping stage, so there are still some significant things that need improvement. For one, the 3D printed board weighs 12 lbs, more than double the original surfboard. Fortunately, as the 3D printing materials market continues to advance and grow, it seems likely that new and lighter material solutions will present themselves.

Even since the 3D printed board was manufactured, Proto3000 says it has materials which would already be better suited for manufacturing a strong but lightweight deck. One way that the 3D printing company is looking to cut back on the board’s weight is through a dissolvable core.

Proto3000 engineer Chris McAloney explained: “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…You end up with the same concept as a 3D board, mixed with the traditional concept of a fiberglass wrap board, so you can get complex designs with the weight reduction…”

Traditional board makers, also called “shapers,” might initially see 3D printing as a threat to their work and craft, but Larson sees it as an opportunity to expand the sport, and says 3D printing is a tool that shapers should embrace.

“It’s pretty wild,” commented Fanning, who is a three-time ASP World Tour champion. “The shape is spot on to what Mayhem had made before. The rails… everything. It was just heavy. I’m excited to see what they come up with next.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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