If you walk across any college campus, you’ll probably see several recycling bins piled high with plastic bottles. Most people barely notice those bins, looking at them only when they need to discard a bottle themselves, but Dr. Nathaniel Petre of Imperial College London looked at the piles of plastic bottles and thought “I could make a surfboard out of those.”
Why not? Dr. Petre isn’t the first person to have the idea of 3D printing a surfboard, but the board he created may be the most eco-friendly one 3D printed yet, and it shows a lot of promise for more sustainable – and less expensive – surfboard production in the future. The surfboard was a serious project that received seed funding from NASA, and Dr. Petre worked with colleagues to 3D print the board in sections. Some of the sections were 3D printed from plastic bottles melted down and extruded into filament, and the rest of it was printed with filament from ALGIX, which creates materials from an invasive diatomic algae.
“It is really satisfying to think that we can take an invasive lake algae, which is literally sucking the air and life out of lakes in the USA and use it as a sustainable material for surfboard manufacture,” Dr. Petre said. “What is evident from this pilot project is that not only is there a potential future in for printed boards, but that there’s an opportunity to print more things from waste or compostable material provided you have a big enough printer.”
Many of the surfboards that have been 3D printed before have been prototypes only, but Dr. Petre’s board is durable enough for regular use, in addition to being cheaper and more sustainable to produce than other boards. 3D printing also allows surfboard designers to approach their designs from a more creative angle. Dr. Petre himself was inspired by dolphins when he designed his board, appropriately dubbed the Dolphin Board of Awesome.
The Dolphin Board of Awesome is currently being tried out by Dr. Petre’s colleague Zachary Ostroff off the coast of California. While this particular board was 3D printed in sections and then later assembled, Dr. Petre has received a grant from the Imperial College Hackspace that will allow him to develop a larger 3D printer, which can then be used to 3D print a surfboard all in one piece.
So the Dolphin Board of Awesome is only the beginning, then. Dr. Petre has also partnered with Surfdome, one of Europe’s largest surf retailers, to 3D print a surfboard out of plastic trash from beaches. That board will be put on permanent display at the Eden Project in Cornwall, but it won’t be a surprise if Dr. Petre and his colleagues end up 3D printing additional surfboards from plastic found along beaches. As these makers have shown, 3D printing is a fast, inexpensive way to create surfboards, and plastic trash is something that is always readily accessible – especially if you’re someone, like a surfer, who spends a lot of time on the beach. Who says beach cleanup can’t be fun?
Discuss in the 3D Printed Surfboard forum at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Imperial College London]