3D Printed Fins for Surfboards
Surfers can order surfboards that are customised to their needs, or choose from a range of pre-made boards, with little difference in cost. When it comes to surfboard fins, however, it’s a different story.
Fins are aerodynamic foils that act like rudders while surfing, usually attached to the rear bottom of the surfboard. Fins were once permanently glassed into the board, but these days almost all boards have a removable fin system.
Manufacturers of removable fin systems make exceptional products, but the current manufacturing process involves injection moulding, which is very expensive. This pushes it out of economic reach for most surfers looking for a customised fin.
Enter 3D printing. This project addresses the Global Challenge of Manufacturing Innovation. Professor Marc in het Panhuis and his team of scientists and surfers have developed, designed and 3D printedsurfboard fins made from composite materials, and have built and trialled prototype fins with flexibility similar to those available in shops.
The problem is the sheer volume of data that quickly accumulates. Typically, each surfer generates five spread-sheets plus a unique data file for each wave surfed during a session. A single surfer can easily ride up to 30 waves in an hour.
The team is now working with the Digital Living Lab to upload the data through the cellular network and develop software that will process the raw data and deliver the analysis for the perfect fins to suits the beach, the surf conditions and the surfer.