Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Designer on board with 3D

Surfer using print technology to turn his ideas into reality at press of button.

Surfboard designer Roy Stuart is now using 3D printing to create his innovative fin designs. Photo / Alan Gibson
Surfboard designer Roy Stuart is now using 3D printing to create his innovative fin designs. Photo / Alan Gibson

A renowned Kiwi surfboard designer has found himself riding the global 3D printing wave after using the state-of-the-art technology to create a world first product.

Putaruru surfer Roy Stuart has been handcrafting surfboards and surfboard fins for two decades, but now 3D printing has opened up a new world of potential for his unique concepts.

Constructing his fin designs had been a painstaking process, taking nearly 40 hours to turn them into highly tuned finished products.

Mr Stuart, a recognised innovator in wooden surfboards, had struggled to create his fin designs in fibreglass, the moulding work required proving "horrendously expensive".

But in 3D printing, he saw another way to bring his innovative sketches to life.

Late last year, he approached Tauranga 3D printing specialists Palmer Design and Manufacturing to see whether his designs could be converted into computer-aided design, and then digitally constructed.

What became his hollow, Warp Drive polycarbonate fin is now the first commercially available 3D printed surfboard fin in the world.

The high-performance fins, extremely light, durable and versatile, are already being used on waves across the globe.

"We were able to take what was in his head and bring it to life within the space of two months, which is pretty astounding," designer Andrew Palmer said.

"It's a great example of what you can do with 3D printing. You can make things you literally couldn't make before ... you just need a design."

Mr Stuart said where he had been held back for years by a lack of available materials, there was now no obstacles to realising his designs.

"We can more or less do anything we want now."

Printing an object

* Uses for 3D printing have spanned the realms of science, from the possibility of using living human cells to print replacement organs, to Nasa looking at printing spare parts for space equipment using moon material.

* At a global gadget show this month, tech enthusiasts marvelled at edible sugar sculptures (pictured) created by the ChefJet Pro, the first commercial, kitchen food printer.

* Other ideas include cars, firearms, prosthetics, hearing aids, dental implants - and even a hamburger.

- NZ Herald

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