Feb 26

3D printing for biomimetic surfers

Roy Stuart is a renowned board builder in New Zealand. His technics, essentially manual, remain time consuming. With the help of 3D printing, the craftsman produced a new fin design in only 2 months.

New Zealand has several reasons to benefit from 3D printing : its remote location, the lack of certain industries and a dynamic creative community. You can already find 3D printers for sale at the local consumer electronics shop or attend a workshop in a fab lab, a makers place compliant with MIT rules. There are such places in the North Island, in Wellington or Auckland central library and university of technology. But, to date, not many objects made in New Zealand are known for being 3D printed : one guitar here, miniature trains there

Warp Drive is the first sporting good I hear of made by 3D printing. As the name suggests, the goal of this fin is to bring better propulsion and longer rides while on your surfboard. To issue a new design more rapidly than usual, Roy Stuart contacted the kiwi 3D printing company Palmer’s Design & Manufacturing LTD. From a basic drawing, the engineering firm built the ideal 3D model regarding hydrodynamics, as shown in the folllowing video :

From this point, Roy Stuart released 17 different versions of the original Warp Drive. 3D printed structures are made of polycarbonate and a rectilinear infill, considered the best mix for strenght. Their shapes deliberately resemble designs found in nature, such as bumpy whale fins or seagull wings.

3D fins roy stuart

17 versions of the 3D printed Warp Drive      ©Palmer’s Design & Manufacturing LTD

Commercial 3D printing is only starting in New Zealand and large scale manufacturing is not yet available on neither islands, as the innovation firm Locus Research pointed out. For more advanced technics, kiwi companies still have to turn to other countries, like Australia or China. Surely 3D printing will benefit from further investments in the country, either public or private. But will it be soon enough for New Zealand to catch the wave ?



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