The question that we used to ask just a few years ago was, “What can be 3D printed?” The answer to that question, at the time, would have included small doodads and plastic prototypes, among others. Today, however, things have quickly changed, and we ourselves are beginning to ask the question of “What can’t be 3D printed?” The answer to that question is a tough one.
Back in February of 2014, Stratasys unveiled a set of 3D printed skis which they had fabricated on their own line of machines. Co-founder and CIO at the time Scott Crump even hit the slopes to test these skis out. This was quite the impressive feat for a 3D printer to accomplish, but since then a lot has changed. We’ve seen 3D printed cars, bicycles, and even houses come about, each and every one of them more and more astonishing than the last.
This coming week, corporate leaders, industry insiders, and others interested in additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and 3D printing will gather in Long Beach, California for RAPID 2015 Conference & Expo, an event which seems to get more and more exciting each and every year.
Stratasys is no newcomer when it comes to RAPID, as they are a mainstay at the yearly exhibition. This year they will be ready to impress crowds by showing off not only the aforementioned 3D printed skis, they will also have on hand a 3D printed snowboard.
“This snowboard is almost entirely made from 3D-printed parts,” Kevin Johnson, Principal Engineer – Skunkworks Stratasys, tells 3DPrint.com. “The focus of the project was to generate and test (ride) snowboards with novel geometries without heavily investing in specialized tooling, or involving a board/ski factory. A fleet of Stratasys Fortus Production printers fabricated all the parts for this project using a variety of materials.”
The snowboard, which is comprised of three separate 3D printed sections, was designed in CAD using extremely complex geometries. It was printed in a material called ULTEM 9085, which has an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio and an equally impressive “cold weather toughness.”
The 3D printing process of the three sections, according to Johnson, took an astounding 170 hours to complete, but by using multiple 3D printers he explained that a new board design could be ready for testing every three days.
“3D printing facilitated quick checks of board properties and behavior,” Johnson tells us. “The additive process was uniquely capable of constructing hollowed out board sections filled with cell like structure to yield a weight and stiffness essential for the desired board behavior.”
Once the three individual sections were complete, Stratasys fit the board with several threaded inserts and a perimeter of steel edging. The board’s bindings are also mostly 3D printed as well, using other engineering-grade polymers in the additive manufacturing process. The bases and bolt circles are printed using polycarbonate, which ultimately gives them superior strength. On top of this, the back of the bindings on the board are printed out of ABS plastic, combined with soluble support which allows Stratasys to print virtually any geometric shape imaginable. The straps on the bindings are made of nylon, giving them great durability and flexibility.
In all, the bindings took about 50 hours of print time to complete in addition to the aforementioned 170 for the board itself.
“The bindings were finished with the addition of some metal bits and off-the-shelf buckles,” explained Johnson. “After removing excess epoxy from the board, it was treated to some light sanding before attaching the bindings. Before riding, the edges were filed and the bottom was given a hand-rubbed hot wax for top-shelf performance.”
And there you have it, a 3D printed, one-of-a-kind snowboard. If you are able to attend RAPID 2015, you will have the opportunity to see, touch, and feel this incredible creation yourself. What do you think about this 3D printed snowboard? Do you think we will see more and more snowboard manufacturers using 3D printing for snowboards and snowboard bindings in the future? Discuss in the 3D Printed Snowboard forum thread on 3DPB.com.